The following is an article from the November 2017 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm
Imagine wearing a pair of gloves so constricting that they create a loss of sensation to simulate arthritis. Or glasses that reproduce the effects of glaucoma, leaving your eyesight skewed and blurry so you no longer have peripheral vision, and you have to squint to see objects only inches away. Picture a headset filling your ears full of loud static, sirens, crowds talking, music, and doors opening and closing all at the same time. Visualize your shoes filling with fire ants biting and burning into the soles of your feet to simulate neuropathy.
Now, imagine this is your life every single day. The difficulty getting dressed with zippers and buttons due to your declining fine motor coordination. The frustration when counting out the correct amount of change, unable to see whether the coin is a penny or a dime. The struggle of listening to someone give directions and being unable to hear through the cacophony of white noise. The fatigue and exhaustion felt from trying to acquire some rest amidst all the internal chaos. For an estimated 5 million Americans with dementia, this is only a fraction of the crippling reality they experience daily.
As the Alzheimer's Association explains, dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily activities such as paying bills, planning and preparing meals, and remembering appointments. While I’ve long understood what dementia is, I recently had the opportunity to experience how it feels.
A few months ago, I attended the Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) at Evergreen Adult Day Services presented in cooperation with Anne Browning at Homewatch Caregivers. VDT is a hands-on simulation of the physical and mental challenges by those with dementia. The simulation offers individuals the ability to step into the shoes of another person and view situations from a patient or loved one's standpoint. By doing so, this unique tool helps professionals, caregivers, and families empathize and better understand the behaviors and needs of those with dementia.
As the old saying goes: "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes." This experience lasted only 10-15 minutes, but it has completely transformed my perspective. Despite being a registered nurse who has worked with dementia patients, I had no idea what to expect from the VDT experience. It has changed my life.
If you know someone with dementia and want to get a better understanding of what they go through, I highly recommend finding a VDT event near you. It will help open your heart to people with dementia and open your eyes to the challenges they face.