Created on 8 August 2017

Staff members don simulation suits to find out what it feels like to have dementia

Enable East are currently managing a project commissioned by Health Education East of England via North Essex Partnership Trust (NEP) which aims to improve the workforce development and training of health and social care staff surrounding Dementia services.

The Dementia Workforce Transformation Project is currently in the process of developing a training programme centred around GERT suits – a suit which simulates aspects of dementia and frailty and allows the user to develop a greater empathy for what service users with these conditions feel and experience physically and emotionally. NEP has purchased 12 of these suits and will soon be loaning them out to other organisations in Essex who wish to train their staff in their use.

The suits, developed by the Julius-Maximillian University of Wurzburg, simulate the following healthy ageing experiences and pathological side effects of ageing:

Opacity of the eye lens
Narrowing of the visual field
High frequency hearing loss
Head mobility restrictions
Joint stiffness
Reduced grip ability
Tremor simulator; simulates trembling of the hands
Six simulation glasses; simulates common visual disorders
Overshoes that simulate an unsteady gait
Reinforced knew braces; simulates greater mobility restriction of the knees
Hemiparesis simulator; simulates a unilateral paralysis, e.g. caused by a stroke
Loss of strength and reduced co-ordination skills

Julia Hiley, our Enable East Associate project manager, managing the programme said: “Our intention is to loan these suits and accessories to any organisation who feel they would add value to the delivery of their training and development of staff in health and social care.”
The loaning of the suits would be as a result of organisations having gone through the Trust’s Train the Trainer programme, a course which would equip the organisations with the knowledge of how to use the suits correctly, understand the benefits of the simulations and develop the necessary skills in conducting the training of their own staff.

The programme will be completely free for organisations to access, thanks to the funding from Heath Education East of England, and the time, resources and GERT suits supplied by NEP. Organisations wishing to access the programme could range from GP surgeries, county council front line staff, local charities and not-for-profits as well as local businesses such as supermarkets who want their staff to understand how customers with frail elderly conditions or aspects of dementia may experience their store.

The project team are currently in the process of developing the training programme which will launch in September. They are working with a consultant from the University of East Anglia who developed GERT suit training for their students, to learn from their experiences and help shape the Train the Trainer programme.

The training programme will be delivered by NEP Virtual Dementia trainers and is a long-term project open to any business or organisation interested in learning more about the experience of age-related conditions. The East of England Co-op has previously provided training for their staff to give them an idea of how their customers with dementia find their shopping experiences in their store. Participants said they found the experience very ‘frustrating’ and it ‘opened their eyes’ to how dementia sufferers must feel when doing something as simple as a quick shop. You can view a video of their training here.


Julia added: “It is wonderful to work on such an interesting and valuable project. The results of this programme will ensure that health and social care staff, as well as those interacting with dementia sufferers in their local communities, will have a greater understanding and empathy for the physical and emotional effects of this condition. We are looking forward to working with a wide range of organisations and helping to develop these initiatives which are engaging, interactive and invaluable to those taking part.”

To find out more about this project, contact Julia Hiley or call Enable East on 01206 287543.


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