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Through the looking glass: A Deeper Understanding of Dementia

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Through the looking glass

A Deeper Understanding of Dementia

Working in the senior placement industry I deal with seniors every day, over the phone, in person, through email and texting, I feel through my interactions and spending time with the elderly population that I have a good idea of what a senior goes through on a daily basis. BOY WAS I WRONG! A few weeks ago my colleagues and I had the opportunity to experience what it feels like to have dementia through a program called A Deeper Understanding of Dementia put on by Senior Helpers and Eskaton Assisted Living and Memory Care Gold River. This Dementia Tour is a glimpse, about 5 minutes at the most, into some of the difficulties facing men and women with dementia. Have you ever been to a carnival and gone through the haunted house, or walked through the fun house with the mirrors that distort your image? That is kind of the feeling this Dementia Tour gave me, I was scared, confused, in pain, unable to think straight, it was almost like living in a nightmare. You begin by putting a piece of hard plastic in the bottom of your shoes, which has sharp hard pieces of plastic sticking into the bottom of your feet, imagine tiny little sharp teeth poking at your feet. This is to simulate the feeling of neuropathy in your feet. When I first slid the plastic insoles into my shoes, I thought it felt kinda good, like a mini massage, I thought, well that isn’t so bad. Then came the gloves, first a pair of plastic gloves for sanitary purposes, then a pair of garden gloves, which were of course over sized, to simulate the loss of touch and feel that you get as you age. Next, you are called up to a door and asked to put on a pair of glasses. These glasses are blacked out on the sides, the eyeglass piece only had a very small window to see from, and it was foggy and scratched. This is to give you an idea of what someone with macular degeneration and blocked peripheral would see, and since I could not wear my glasses it was even more out of focus and difficult to get around. After you put on the glasses, you are given headphones, which you put on, and there are sounds coming from either side and they are both different, at some points, you hear the sound of two men having a conversation in one ear then a construction site with jack-hammering and trucks backing up. There are also women talking and laughing or arguing, then a loud bang, which made me jump right out of my skin. You are then taken into a dark room with a strobe light and with your headphones on a person gives you five tasks to complete and you are supposed to complete them as quickly as you can and you are given about three or four minutes to complete the tasks. My tasks were; write a letter to your family and address it, pour yourself a half glass of water (to which I heard “pour a glass of water and drink it”), fold the towels, set the table, and put on a white sweater. I managed to put on the sweater, fold one towel, and I of course went above and beyond and poured the water and drank it. After what seemed like an eternity, knowing I could not write a letter or set the table I sat down and waited for my time to end. My feet really hurt so sitting seemed the logical step. What I found the scariest to me was the vision. I have listened to loud music my whole life so the voices and loud bangs are not all that uncommon, but the vision, that got to me. Knowing the probability that someday I will have an issue with my vision that makes things look like they did with those glasses on is down right scary. When we completed the tour we sat down with a member of Senior Helpers to discuss our experience and talk about how it affected our perception of aging. It was an amazing tour and I highly recommend that everyone, no matter if you are in the senior care industry or not, should take this opportunity to look through the eyes of our elderly.


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