Work-based learning apprentices and staff at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai have been finding out what it’s like to live with dementia and autism as part of a pioneering immersive reality experience.

The Virtual Dementia Tour – known as ‘the dementia bus’ – visited Busnes@LlandrilloMenai sites at Abergele, Bangor and Dolgellau, giving students and staff a unique opportunity to experience first-hand how it might feel to suffer with dementia.

The Autism Reality Experience then visited the same sites, offering a chance for participants to experience the sensory overload that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder can often face.

The immersive experiences were provided by Training2Care, and were supported by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Innovation Fund.

Amy Thomas, health and social care work-based learning manager for Busnes@LlandrilloMenai, organised the visits and described them as “a powerful experience”.

She felt it would be hugely beneficial to apprentices learning to care for people with either dementia or autism.

The feedback from students and staff was overwhelmingly positive, with many highlighting the insight it had given them into what it is like to live with the conditions they are learning to care for.

Amy said: “I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and give all our learners an experience that would inform their knowledge and increase their understanding.

“It was good for the learners who work with dementia to learn more about autism, and vice versa. Equally, those who already have experience working with patients and clients with complex needs had the full sensory experience to help inform their practice too.

“In their evaluations, people said it really got them thinking about the work they do, and that it was good to have had a realistic experience of what it’s like to have dementia. I did it myself and it was a powerful experience.”

Megan Lowe, a student on the higher apprenticeships in health and social care, said: “The experience was brilliant. It gave an insight of how it feels to be living with Autism and the difficulty that people can experience in their day-to-day life.”

Emma Jones, who is on the same course, said: “I enjoyed the experience, it has given me a better understanding of how difficult the day-to-day lives of people living with autism can be.’’

Hannah Lloyd, assessor and internal quality assurer for health and social care, said: “The dementia bus gave me a small insight into what it’s like to be on a dementia journey. It helped me understand how simple tasks can be so difficult and how frustrating it can be for a person living with dementia.”

Elysha Westwell, assessor and internal quality assurer for health and social care, said: “As a new member of staff, the dementia bus was really informative and a great tool to use for our learners. It was also a great way to enhance my CPD.”