Self-experience or Experiential Learning

Self-experience or Experiential Learning represents a process in which knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. The constructivist approach states that the personal meaning we give to the facts is constantly changing based on our experiences.

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Definition and meaning

Self-experiences can be considered a process of knowledge because individuals construct expectations or schemes about the world that are constantly either confirmed or refuted through experience. The self-experience’s concept in this context is used to indicate an experience that might change our points of view and help us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Therefore, self-experiences are here used in the framework of the person-centered care which is essential for high-quality practices in dementia.

"Empathy as a strategy for understanding others and dealing with their problems. It is very important to really put yourself in others' shoes. We need empathy for excellent health care."

Healthcare worker

Healthcare worker

FG1 Italy

“Really useful. I could identify my confusion and being unable to engage in the activity. Simple and effective tool”

Healthcare professional

Healthcare professional

FG Ireland

What is self-experience?

The self-experiences are here used as a tool to understand people with dementia by putting oneself in their shoes. Thanks to the re-creation of the dementia symptoms and the possibility to experience these symptoms temporarily, we have the opportunity to better understand the person with dementia’s world. In doing this, we have the possibility to understand the meaning of the behaviour of the person with dementia.
It is well know that people with dementia might suffer from perceptual, memory and language impairments, therefore they might interpret their experiences in a very different way from those
who do not have such impairments. Within this context, understanding how they construct and
perceive their world can help us to make sense of their choices.
In the INTenSE project, the self-experience techniques are used as teaching strategies for an innovative experiential training from professionals working in the field of dementia.

What is the evidence?

In literature there are some examples of dementia caregivers who changed their perception about people with dementia after attending groups focused on the person-centered approach. For example, it can happen that communication problems arise between professionals and people
suffering from dementia because they live in different worlds with different perceptions. Also, people who do not know what it means to have dementia may consider people with dementia as
limited, unaware, helpless, dependent, unable to remember anything and unable to communicate. Instead, by understanding something of a person’s life, such as his/her perceptual abilities and the nature of his/her symptoms, one can put oneself in their shoes and change opinions about them. Understanding the world of people with dementia helps us to break down prejudices about them.

“I liked the scenarios in the role play (i.e., washing and changing t-shirts) as they really relate to real life situations in clinical practice. The role play gave me more insight into how it must feel to be treated as a child or not to experience autonomy. It's frustrating! I felt helpless”

Healthcare Professional

Healthcare Professional

FG Netherlands

“It provides a very real feeling of a person with dementia when they are helpless”

Healthcare professional

Healthcare professional

FG Germany

What to expect?

Self-experiences enable participants to recreate the physical and mental challenges faced by people with dementia. Furthermore, they help the development of relational skills that might enhance care assistance. In general, all the self -experience techniques can increase empathy and therefore the understanding of the world and the perception of others. Specifically, film interventions are shown to enhance knowledge about dementia and to develop a greater person-centered attitudes towards people with dementia. Immersive virtual experience training in dementia is found to improve empathy. Virtual reality interventions increase reflection on the person with dementia and the competence in taking care of people with dementia by increasing the positive interactions with them. It is important to underline that self-experience techniques can enable us to experience what it is like to have particular (sets of) symptoms but it cannot exactly portray what it is like for any one individual person who lives with dementia. We therefore expect that the self-experience techniques included in the INTenSE DST will enable professional carers to develop all the skills listed above (empathy, reflection, social skills and person-centred attitudes), prevent or negate dementia misconceptions and prejudices and consequently enable a better standard of dementia care.