The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) is designed to simulate what it’s like to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias. This proprietary program is being delivered by a variety of people in long-term care settings, schools, aging conferences, etc. The idea is simple: wear goggles that disrupt your vision, pour popcorn kernels into your shoes to simulate leg and foot pain, wear gloves and tape fingers to make touching and grasping difficult, and listen to loud background noise through headphones. The person administering the event then tells the individual to perform a variety of tasks that are difficult to hear and understand.
I have taken and administered this test. I think the experience is worthwhile and memorable, but if you are looking for a true dementia simulation, the Virtual Dementia Tour will not provide it. The test’s strong suit is the physical experience, but lacking is the confusion. The attempt to simulate confusion through loud background noise and dim lights cannot possibly mirror true dementia confusion.
Throughout the event you try completing tasks knowing that you’re taking a test, that the instructions were unclear, that you’re wearing goggles, etc. Trying to fold socks while wearing gloves and goggles is vastly different from trying to anxiously fold socks, because you think the kids aren’t home yet and you’re not sure where they are; or you feel uncomfortable, because you really need use the bathroom, but you don’t know that you do, and something just doesn’t seem right, this isn’t your house – where are you!? Who are these people!?
That being said, I’m not sure there’s any way that one could effectively mirror a dementia state of mind. The Virtual Dementia Tour is about as good as you can get, and in many cases, it’s not the experience itself that’s valuable, but the discussion and education that follows it.