Unique approach for caregivers of dementia patients

SOUTHBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – a first hand feel of what it’s like to live with dementia, generally diagnosed in older adults, and ultimately improve their quality of care.

Alzheimer’s Disease is probably the most well known form of dementia.
The program, The Virtual Dementia Tour, is designed to increase sensitivity — among those who care for dementia patients.
Quite an eye opener for the staff at a retirement community in Southbury.

A lot of people who work at The Watermark on East Hill have already gone through what Anne Champlin is about to do.
The receptionist is being instructed on The Virtual Dementia Tour.

Kathleen Pye, helping to oversee it, said, “You could sit through classrooms and take notes but the feelings that were experienced in just 10 minutes of this activity, I feel is going to make our caregivers just much better than they already are.”

It’s a first hand feel of what it’s like to live with dementia – marked memory loss and inability to do simple tasks among older adults.

To create that forgetful confused state of mind, Champlin’s physical and sensory abilities are hampered.
She wears glasses to simulate impaired vision.
As well as shoe inserts with raised ridges.

“To help simulate,” explained Associate Executive Director Dave Schupak, “The feeling of neuropathy that you would get in your feet.”

There are also specialized gloves for loss of nerve feeling in the hands.
Along with a CD, recreating impaired hearing.

Schupak points out, “To simulate confusion, hearing multiple things that might be going on at a time and not not being able to make sense of them.”

All that, plus five tasks to do which includes –

Schupak instructs Champlin, “Find the stripe sweater and put it on. Write a three sentence note to your family.”

The stripe sweater proves elusive.

Champlin said, “I found myself wandering from spot to spot.”

But she is able to write the note and drink a glass of water — then she circles back.
A frustrated Champlin finally locates the sweater.

“It was in a pile on a bed with a lot of other clothes,” said Champlin, “And because of the visual impairment, the stripe, that took me forever.”

But two chores are not completed. Champlin said, “”That’s it. I’m too confused.”

Later she added, “I feel like I have a good memory, so I thought I could at least accomplish most of them.”

Pye stressed, “The feelings that we saw with our associates is also what we see with our residents with dementia.”

A unique approach,  benefiting employees and residents.

Champlin said, “I’d be more sensitive and understanding of someone who comes in with dementia.”

The two tasks she did not complete were setting the table for four and folding towels.

She admitted the impaired vision and hearing are what hampered her ability to remember.

Empathy and patience are what most learned from just that ten minute session.

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