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‘Dementia bus’ helping nurses to better understand the condition

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Nurses feel they have a “better understanding” of the lived experience of dementia after climbing aboard a virtual ‘dementia bus’, according to a London mental health trust.

Nursing staff at West London NHS Trust recently welcomed a training day which involved a virtual dementia tour in the form of a bus.

“They now have a clearer understanding on how to address and interact with a patient”

Lisa Tham

The trust is among the first in London to use the bus to help its own staff understand the challenges faced by the people they provide care for.

The initiative is intended to give NHS staff the opportunity to experience what it is like for someone living with dementia by completing a series of basic daily activities while wearing dark sunglasses, headphones and multiple-layered gloves.

The idea is that this will help to convey challenges a typical person with dementia faces.

The dementia bus, which parked up at the trust’s HQ on Armstrong Way, Southall, came as part of an academic programme for the Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (CID) service, the team manager at the trust explained to Nursing Times.

“The emphasis was to get our nurses better trained in, and understand dementia, which I think we achieved by undertaking the training,” said Lisa Tham, team manager of the Hounslow CID community service.

The training initiative was predominantly attended by nurses and nursing students, though it was also open to other members of staff who work for the CID service too.

Ms Tham said the day helped her team of nurses to “gain a very valuable insight” into what challenges and experiences people have, who live with dementia.

“It also highlighted the changes we can all make to improve how we communicate with people with dementia”

Adam Copitch

 

In addition to the practical experience of being on the bus, Ms Tham explained there was further training afterwards which taught the team how to use what they did on the bus, to help provide better care for patients on the ward or in the community.

Ms Tham added that, after carrying out the training, the nurses could now “understand patient needs better” and can potentially “communicate better” with their patients.

“They now have a clearer understanding on how to address and interact with a patient, and also some of the deficits that patients would experience if they have dementia and some of the emotions they would experience as well,” she said.

The trust said it had particularly good feedback from nursing students. “I think it’s another innovative way to get students engaged with and learning about dementia,” said Ms Tham.

Among those who took part was student nurse Adam Copitch, who said: “This experience prompted me to reflect on just how lonely and frightening dementia can feel.

“It also highlighted the changes we can all make to improve how we communicate with people with dementia,” he added.

Following the success of the dementia bus, the trust is now looking into introducing it twice next year and for staff working outside of the CID as well.

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