Walk A Mile In Their Shoes | by Noelle Melisa Videon

VDT Virtual dementia tour, P.K. Beville, Second Wind Dreams

Posted on Thu, Sep 17, 2020

Denver's Virtual Dementia Tour gives insight to what it's like for caregivers.

The Virtual Dementia Tour® (VDT®) leaves no one unaffected, says P.K. Beville, the creator of the VDT, even the most “hardened” healthcare providers—- which is exactly the outcome she intended.

The Virtual Dementia Tour allows participants to temporarily step into an alternate reality where they experience a full sensory and cognitive shift, resembling what it is like to live with Dementia. 

“People don’t like to face mortality and especially loss of cognitive functioning, until it affects their family, …doing things like the VDT is important to prepare for the future.” – P.K. Beville

Denver's Virtual Dementia Tour brings understanding and comprehending to caregiversP.K. Beville, the founder of Second Wind Dreams and creator of the VDT, never envisioned VDT becoming what it is today. What originated as her doctoral dissertation in 2001 has become an international phenomena which aims to bolster caregiver’s understanding and empathy, in effect leading to better “person-centered” care. 

While many health care providers understand dementia in a clinical sense, Beville says that there is a discrepancy in understanding dementia logically and experientially. Narrowing this gap in understanding has been her mission with the tour.

“There is not a person working in long term care who knows what it is like to have dementia,” Beville says. “I developed the VDT with that thought in mind. How can I help staff members and all walks of life to identify with a person with dementia so that they can have greater empathy, understand them better, and alter their approaches with them that are more commensurate with the disease?” 

Beville’s interest in dementia can be traced back to being a little kid living with Polio, which for a period of time left her paralyzed from the neck down and took several years to recover. She remembers being looked at differently by people who didn’t understand what she was experiencing, similarly to those with dementia. Although she emphasizes that she was able to overcome the disease; people with dementia are not. 

Virtual Dementia Tour, Denver, P.K. Beville, the founder of Second Wind Dreams“The first time I walked into a nursing home, I knew I was home,” she says. “These are the most misunderstood, maligned, marginalized people in our society, and yet they’re the ones that got us where we are today.”

Many people find themselves very moved by the tour, but her concern has always been about how to operationalize these emotions to enhance the quality of care provided. 

Through an assessment tool she developed called D.A.C.E, Beville has seen improvements in care. “From the first time the VDT is conducted there is a significant change in how care is provided,” says Beville. “It really is amazing.”

Briana Kohlbrenner works for the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence as part of a Geriatric’s Workforce Enhancement Program grant. Through this five year grant she was trained as a VDT provider and is now able to make the experience accessible to a wide spectrum of facilities and people across the state. She emphasizes that a central goal of the grant also involves community outreach.  

Beyond health care providers in facilities, Beville believes it is important that every family have access to the VDT. “People don’t like to face mortality and especially loss of cognitive functioning, until it affects their family,” she says. “Doing things like the VDT is important to prepare for the future.”


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