'Fascinating' dementia suit used by Bristol care home to help staff empathise with residents

ITV West Country reporter Max Walsh tries on the empathy suit being used in Bristol

A care home in Bristol has purchased a suit which simulates dementia to help its staff understand what residents are experiencing.

The empathy suit is made up thirteen components including goggles, headphones, weighted vests and pads, which inhibit movement, vision and hearing.

Around 100 staff at Brunelcare's Deerhurst Care Home have now experienced the suit, with some describing the training as the "best they have ever had".

The training is now being offered to families of loved ones with dementia and other care homes.

Lesley Hobbs, manager, said: "The suit is amazing and so insightful. The dementia empathy suit has weights around the ankles and knee pads to restrict the movement and speed of the wearer.

"There are tinted goggles that affect the wearer's peripheral vision alongside the colours around them.

"The gloves that are worn are connected to a machine that makes hands shake, meaning control of movements and coordination were thrown out.

"It was fascinating, and I believe all of our carers should experience the suit as part of an induction process.”

Our reporter's experience - Max Walsh writes

"My task involved walking outside to sit in a car - something elderly residents at Deerhurst Care Home do every day. But wearing the suit made this simple exercise painfully slow.

"The suit was put on in five minutes with the help of two trainers, but immediately trying to hold a conversation became very difficult.

"Once I left the safety of my chair, I had to concentrate on each step very carefully as the weighted vest and ankle straps almost threw me off balance.

"I struggled to hear what Emma Cording, my trainer, was saying as she regularly checked in with me. But in my headphones I had the equivalent of tinnitus ringing around my head.

"By the time I made it to the car, I was mentally exhausted and I could barely lift my feet.

"My final challenge was to attempt to write a birthday card. Yet, with gloves that were causing my hands to shake, my writing was illegible and I could not even put the card in the envelope.

"The whole experience was eye-opening to what so many elderly have to cope with. It was a huge relief to take the suit off after only fifteen minutes!"