Barbara Fradkin – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Reader Question: My mother has dementia and I just can’t imagine what she is experiencing. Is there a way to fully understand what life is like for a person with dementia?
Answer: This is a great question and many family members struggle with this.
Understanding how your loved one feels is difficult because we have not walked in their shoes.
Some of our recent columns have dealt with how the brain works.
Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia cases, changes the whole brain.
It leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss.
Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all of its functions.
As a social worker, I had the opportunity to experience the Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT).
VDT was created by P.K. Beville, founder of Second Wind Dreams, to offer educational programs to help caregivers understand the physical and mental challenges facing those with dementia.
VDT is a scientifically-proven training method designed to build sensitivity and awareness for those caring for people with dementia.
To say this tour was eye opening is a major understatement.
The direct caregivers at the nursing home I worked at took home an experience they will never forget.
It made them better caregivers and gave them the understanding they needed to help their residents cope.
For family members, the tour gives you a glimpse into the world of dementia.
Each participant is outfitted with glasses that simulate obstructed vision.
Headphones are added, which make it hard to hear.
Two pairs of gloves limit your ability to use your hands.
Marbles placed in your shoes simulate neuropathy in your feet.
Then you are led into a darkened room with flashing lights where you must try to complete everyday tasks.
Many caregivers who took the tour came out crying and unable to discuss their feelings.
From then on, each took their time and had more patience and empathy toward the residents in their care.
“The solution to Alzheimer’s disease today and in the foreseeable future is in developing a better and more personal understanding of the day-to-day challenges facing those with the disease,” Beville said. “The Virtual Dementia Tour program is the tool that makes that understanding possible.”
I promise, it is an experience you will never forget.
Meanwhile, for more information on Technology & Dementia, register to attend (by Zoom or in person) the ongoing Brain Health seminar series at One Senior Place by calling 321-751-6771.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Barbara Fradkin is a Social Worker, Certified Care Manager and the Director for One Senior Place, Viera.