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A day in the life of a dementia patient

A day in the life of a dementia patient

Paramount Court staff attempt to string a belt through a pair of pants while their hands, vision, and hearing are impaired. This simulation was part of the virtual demented tour at the senior livin...


POSTED January 22, 2010 11:33 p.m.
Imagine trying to button a shirt while wearing thick gloves and blurry goggles. Imagine trying to understand verbal instructions while sirens, static and voices ring in your ears. This is what dementia patients deal with on a daily basis, and this is what care givers at Paramount Court were trying to simulate for the public on Thursday.
With the help of Right At Home, an in-home care and assistance group, Paramount Court put on virtual demented tours for the public and caregivers in the community. The tours simulated the challenges that elderly people with dementia and age-related conditions deal with on a daily basis.
Tour attendees wore several accessories that impaired their abilities, and tried to perform simple tasks. They were outfitted with thick gloves to simulate arthritis and loss of sensation in the hands, yellow tinted goggles with stickers in the center to replicate age-related color blindness and macular degeneration —  an  eye condition that causes large blind spots at the center of the eye. They also wore shoe inserts with rounded plastic spikes that irritated and hurt their feet as they walked, to simulate poor circulation and foot nerve problems.
To simulate dementia, each attendee wore headphones attached to an MP3 player. They were then released into an senior living apartment at Paramount Court. The MP3 player had a 10-minute recording that dictated everyday tasks, such as “fold three towels” or “set the table for four.” In addition to the directions there was static, muted voices, sirens and telephone sounds. The sounds on the recording are similar to what people with dementia hear all the time.
“The idea is for them to have some disorientation,” said Rick Carson, president and CEO of Right at Home.
The main goal of the simulation was to help caregivers be aware of the experience people with dementia live with all the time. Several members of Paramount Court’s staff took the tour, along with volunteers and visitors who had a family member with dementia.
“The worst part was the pain from (the shoe inserts). That alone is a distraction. It makes you want to just sit there and do nothing,” said Cheryl Gerhardt, director of Marketing for Paramount Court.
Cindy Dea Brave, a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Aid Society, said that her mother was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Brave’s tour recording included loud, startling ambulance sirens. She said that her mother was often very startled by ambulance sirens, and would stop whatever she was doing when she heard even far away sirens.
“I can see now how distracting sounds can be. It puts it in perspective. It’s not a simple task to them,” Brave said.
Susan Riner, community liaison for Right at Home, said that the company plans to bring their virtual dementia tours to local schools and law enforcement agencies. High school students could benefit from empathy training because they often hold jobs where they deal with the public, such as restaurant server positions and cashier jobs.
Right at Home has scheduled several virtual demented tours that are open to the public. The next few tours will be in Modesto, but they do plan to bring future events to Turlock and surrounding communities. Right at Home can be contacted at www.rahmodesto.com, or by phone at 579-9445.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.
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