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‘I began to feel uneasy, unsure and very confused’

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How does dementia affect our memory and motor and sensory skills? Read student nurse Anneka’s account of a virtual dementia tour to find out more

I was invited to take part in a virtual dementia tour that was being held at a local nursing home. Having read about it in the paper, I was quite excited to have the opportunity to ‘experience’ dementia. Everyone knows about the memory loss and loss of motor skills et cetera associated with dementia but I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. 

Anneka McQuirk

Anneka McQuirk

Anneka McQuirk

I was escorted towards one of the bedrooms, given insoles to place in my shoes, which were covered in small spikes and told the spikes must face up!

Then, I was given headphones, plastic gloves and then huge thick gardening gloves to wear and finally a pair of goggles that had only the smallest hole to see out of, thus replicating tunnel vision. 

My headphones were turned on and suddenly my ears were filled with discordant noise. It was as if three or four conversations were going on at the same level at the same time.

I couldn’t make out a single conversation, it was just too loud and noisy. I was guided into a pitch black room and all I could see was red and green lights bouncing round the edges of my goggles. 

A man was talking to me now, but I couldn’t hear him, I could only make out his silhouette in front of me. I tried very hard to listen but the noise from my headphones was too loud to hear anything. I said that I couldn’t hear him, but he was gone and I just stood there. 

I began to feel uneasy, unsure and very confused. I shuffled about slightly but frankly I was too nervous to walk around. I had no idea what was around me. I was startled when the man’s silhouette suddenly appeared beside me, his voice was raised and close to my ear this time. He barked at me to find something useful to do. 

How was I meant to do that? “I can’t see anything”, I shouted back. Suddenly, the sound of an ambulance siren screeched in my ears making me jump out of my skin and instinctively my hands flew up to my ears. My heart was beating quickly and my feet hurt from the spikes. 

The silhouette was back but I was so nervous now that I begin to back away from it. Eventually, he told me to “put the socks on the bed into pairs”. I fumbled about and located the bed to the right of me, and begin lifting what felt like blankets. 

Suddenly, someone began tugging it in the other direction, this made me jump and I screamed. All rational thought had gone by this time. I decided to go back to standing still, as it was safer that way. Suddenly, my ears were filled with the sound of a fire alarm. It was so loud that I put my hands are over my ears again and screamed. I could feel  tears welling up in my eyes. 

I looked all around to see if I could make anything out. It seemed a bit lighter at this end of the room. I could make out at least three other people. There were others in here with me. I had had enough by this time. At this point, I was asked to take off my headphones and the experience was over. I felt so relieved.

Taking part in the tour has given me a much deeper understanding of what dementia patients go through, how disorienting dementia can be and what steps I can take to provide true person-centred care. I feel very privileged to have been able to take part in it and would recommend it highly to everyone.  

Anneka McQuirk is currently in her first year studying adult nursing at Bournemouth University

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