Understanding dementia can be difficult without truly experiencing what it’s like to live with the condition every day. Dementia affects the brain, causing changes in people’s ability to understand what they see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Personality changes and difficulty communicating are common with Alzheimer’s, making it challenging for caregivers and family members to connect with their loved one’s with the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, accounting for 60-80 percent of dementia cases. In fact, more than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s’ disease, and it happens to be the sixth-leading cause of death.
“The truth is that when dementia strikes, it strikes the whole community, not just the individual,” said P.K. Beville, M.S., a geriatric specialist and founder of Second Wind Dreams, an internationally-known nonprofit organization that focuses on fulfilling dreams for seniors living in long-term care.
Second Wind Dreams also offers educational programs to help caregivers understand the physical and mental challenges facing those with dementia. If you’ve ever wondered what dementia feels like, the Virtual Dementia Tour offers a first-hand perspective.
The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) is an evidence-based, scientifically-proven training method designed to build sensitivity and awareness in individuals caring for those with dementia. The VDT offers a real-life simulation that allows you to experience the sights, sounds and thoughts and feelings of people living with memory impairments.
During a VDT experience, trained facilitators guide participants through everyday tasks and exercises while wearing patented sensory devices. The devices are designed to alter the senses to simulate the experience of living with dementia.
For example, thick googles induce blurry vision that makes it difficult to navigate the room. Loud white noise plays through a headset, muffling nearby sounds. Textured gloves simulate arthritis in the hands, while shoe inserts mimic poor circulation and neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet.
Participants are then guided to a room with even more distractions, which can include sirens, strobe lights and a ringing phone. Then, they are given a set of instructions such as matching a pair of socks, putting on a shirt, or writing a note. Many participants are shocked to find these simple daily activities are increasingly difficult and time consuming to complete in the simulation. Most participants also find themselves displaying Alzheimer’s symptoms during the tour, including shuffling around the room, being disoriented and staring blankly at objects.
The goal of the Virtual Dementia Tour is to help caregivers experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges those with dementia face and use the experience to provide better person-centered care. The hope is that dementia caregivers will develop more empathy for their loved ones with the condition, leading to more understanding for everyone involved.
If you’re interested in experiencing the Virtual Dementia Tour for yourself, you’re cordially invited to join us for this eye-opening experience at Peabody Retirement Community:
Friday, November 1, from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Saturday, November 2, from 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Sessions will be held on Peabody’s campus, 400 W 7th St, North Manchester, IN 46962. For more information about the Virtual Dementia Tour or to learn more about memory support for your loved one at Peabody, please call 260-982-0808 or contact us today.