Saturday, January 3, 2015

Virtual Dementia Tour

I had an interesting experience a few days ago at a place called the James L West Center here in Ft Worth.  My brother, youngest son, and I took a virtual dementia tour. We were given thin plastic inserts with tiny spikes to put inside our shoes to recreate some sort of neuropathy.   We wore garden gloves because most older people lose sensation in their fingertips.  Then, we put on goggles that have a yellow tint and a cloudy spot in the center to assimilate older vision. The last addition were headphones with constant blurred background noise.  Those with dementia have a hard time with background noise that the rest of us don't even notice. Also, many older folks wear hearing aides that many times make the issue  with background noise even worse.  After we had all our gear on, we were each given a list of instructions  right before we walked in a room.  The room had a bed, couch, dresser, etc and there we were to carry out the tasks.  I could only remember partial instructions.  I could remember something about folding three pairs of white socks but I could not remember what I was supposed to do with them.  I could remember  to sweep something and I found the broom but I could not remember what to sweep.  The feelings of confusion, even anxiety were very real.  I also felt stupid and somewhat embarrassed that I could not remember what to do.

 It was a very helpful experience to realize how the world looks to those with dementia, like my dad.  It made me want to work harder to help him live life as full as he can right now, especially communicating with him in ways that build his self esteem and give him the dignity he deserves.

A helpful website about tools and toys for those with dementia: Alzheimer's Store 

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