Last November I had the privilege to participate in an event called Dementia Live put on by AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Many of us know family members or friends who have been impacted by this disease. This event gives you a small insight into what a person living with dementia experiences every day. This program only lasts about 10 minutes with a short discussion time at the end.
What to expect
Each group consists of 2 to 4 people. You are given textured gloves, glasses that cut off your peripheral vision and headphones with high volume noise. One by one you are given a set of instructions and placed in the room to complete your tasks. You find yourself confused, a little frustrated, you have trouble seeing, and the noise in your ears is loud and annoying. You only heard a few words of the instructions so you try to figure out what to do. You are startled many times by sudden loud noises in the headphones. After about 10 minutes they motion for you to stop and the group is brought together to discuss how you felt going through the dementia program.
Most participants said they felt frustrated that they couldn't understand what was being told to them so they didn't know what to do in the room. One of my tasks was to tie the laces of the tennis shoes. All I heard was "shoes" but when I found them I saw they were untied and tied them. Then I thought "now what?" I found myself holding onto the tennis shoes in fear someone would take my task away from me.
The second thing mentioned was the constant noise in our ears which made it hard to concentrate. We were shocked when we were told that is what a person living with dementia experiences on a day to day basis. Sound to a person with dementia is amplified...a pan dropping in the kitchen on the other side of the house or another patient screaming on the next hall over sounds like it is right next to them. Their world is turned upside down.
Here's the interesting part*
The facilitator passed out information that I found amazing. Did you know that being deficient in Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Omega's, being dehydrated or having a urinary tract infection can mimic dementia? We were challenged to take our loved one for a blood test first before seeking help from a memory care doctor. The presenting symptoms could be just that...symptoms of a vitamin deficiency, dehydration or a urinary tract infection. At least this is a place to start.
Ways to help communicate with someone with dementia*
If anyone is interested in learning more about dementia and how to be better at communicating with someone with dementia I highly recommend going through this short program. It is definitely an eye-opener and it is free. Call the number below for more information.
AGE-u-cate Training Institute
*information received from AGE-u-cate handout.