Having a family member or loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be especially trying during the holiday season.
Onslow County Senior Services hopes to promote understanding and patience using a simulator that lets caregivers see what’s it’s like to have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Those who take part will don goggles, headphones, gloves and socks designed to simulate what dementia and Alzheimer’s patients commonly experience in their day-to-day lives.
“They wear these gloves to simulate the neuropathy (or numbness) in their hands, so they put these on and then you can’t grab stuff,” Lisa Mobley of OSS said, holding thick gloves. “We put things on their feet to simulate neuropathy. We alter your hearing. We put headphones on with an MP3 player and then it’s garbled so you can’t really hear.”
Goggles also simulate impaired or altered vision, which those affected by the diseases commonly experience.
The participants are then given a list of tasks to complete in seven minutes, like setting a table for seven people, or writing a note or getting the brown sweater out of the closet, Mobley said.
“So you’re simulating what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s, because I lead you into the room and I leave you there, so if you have Alzheimer’s…by the time you get over there, you don’t remember what I told you to do. You’re totally lost and it’s a scary feeling,” she said.
Mobley said she hopes the simulator will help people become better caregivers and give them more empathy.
“I mean, that’s one of the hardest jobs to be a caregiver,” she said. “And Alzheimer’s and dementia is a hard disease; and you lose your patience, you lose your wits.”
This is the third time Senior Services has held these tours and Mobley said they’ve had a very good turnout. The tours are typically held during the holiday season because that time can be more stressful for caregivers.
“It’s hard because you’ve been with someone for 60 years and then they don’t know who you are,” she said. “They don’t know the holiday traditions. They don’t know who you are anymore.”
Virtual Dementia Tours will be offered in 15-minute increments from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday in at Onslow County Senior Services, 4024 Richlands Hwy. For more information or to schedule a tour, contact Lisa Mobley at 910-989-3017.