Healthcare assistants (HCAs) at the Royal Free Hospital have been using age simulation suits to  help them experience some of the challenges facing older patients, as part of a novel training programme.

The suits simulate the various challenges some of our older patients face including masks, which simulate the effects of cataracts, and earplugs that simulate hearing loss. A back brace, weights and gloves allow the HCA to understand how it might feel to have arthritis and muscle weakness. 

HCAs are encouraged to reflect on their experience of wearing the suit and, as part of their training, discuss their experiences with each other. 

According to Maggie Maxfield, a lead nurse for the training programme,  the suits enable staff to have a greater understanding of what it is like to go through the aging process.

She added: “It allows HCAs to have an appreciation of the challenges some of our patients are facing and why simple tasks such as standing, sitting and walking often take time and cannot be rushed.”

The funding for the suits was provided by the Royal Free Charity.

The age simulation suit training is part of the fundamentals of care programme, a new training scheme for HCAs. Maggie is keen for the training to be as interactive as possible and the programme also involves teaching HCAs to practice undertaking observations of vital signs such as blood pressure measurements.

Picture: Victor Opara and Natalie Conboye, healthcare assistants, using the age simulation suits.