Virtual tour shows loved ones of dementia, Alzheimer’s patients reality of their world

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Truly helping a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s begins with understanding what they are experiencing. Enter the Virtual Dementia Tour.

It takes some tools to give a real feel for how the mind operates with dementia. The professionals at Senior Star put WGN News’s Dina Bair through the tour.

First, shoe inserts to mimic pain associated with neuropathy and other age related disorders, then, goggles that impair vision and gloves to dull the sense of touch. Finally, headphones piped in distracting noise making it difficult to hear instructions.

Dina was then on her own. She was tasked with walking to a clothing rack and finding a striped sweater. Then it was on to letter writing.

“My handwriting was altered. I knew it was sloppy and so wanted to make it better but simply could not,” Dina said.

The next instruction was to set the table. But by now, only about two minutes in, she said her mind was getting tired.

“Often there are behaviors, wandering around talking to yourself, that people perceive as dementia behaviors,” says Anna Waters, RN and Director of Health Services at Senior Star. “It’s human behaviors when you are lost and trying to figure your way out.”

“I can’t imagine going through an entire day like that,” Dina said at the end of the tour. “That is incredible.”

And that is the point, not just imagining but living the struggles of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, if even just briefly.

“When we are doing it it’s amazing the emotional response,” Waters said. “Sometimes, people will get halfway through it and burst into tears when they realize what a struggle it has been for their family member. And maybe they weren’t as understanding as they should have been.”

But they begin to understand a concept that patient and loved one alike typically cannot grasp.

“The objective of the virtual dementia training is to increase your compassion your sensitivity to realize doing five simple tasks aren’t so simple when your senses are impaired,” Waters says.

If you are interested in this experience, certified trainers will travel to provide The Virtual Dementia Tour.

Those interested in taking the VDT may call Senior Star at Weber Place which is located at 605 South Edward Drive in Romeoville. The phone number is 815-439-9955 and callers may ask for Anna Walters, director of health services.
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