Thick gloves, dark glasses and headphones playing loud noise immersed North Florida healthcare professionals into the world of dementia patients on Monday.
Absolute Health, of Ocala, hosted the Virtual Dementia Tour that attempts to simulate the experience of patients living with dementia.
Kindred at Home, a senior health care service, provides the virtual tour to different care centers, said Bijou Ikli, director of strategic partnerships. The tour is useful to both healthcare personnel and caretakers so that they are better equipped to treat and care for patients experiencing dementia, she said.
“We use it as an empathy-inducing experience for our clinicians,” Ikli said. “It helps reinforce our actual training when working with patients with dementia.”
Simulation participants are taken into a poorly lit room and expected to do multiple tasks in an effort to impair their senses and create a disoriented and helpless feeling.
“Essentially, we have 10 minutes to trick your brain into behaving like one that has moderate-stage dementia,”Ikli said. “Research shows that individuals that go through this experience ultimately have greater empathy.”
The dementia simulation program was created by P.K. Beville, founder of Second Wind Dreams, a nonprofit organization based in Roswell, Georgia.
Renee Scotty, a patient at Absolute Health, has family members with dementia. She said that the simulation showed that dementia was nothing like she thought.
“It changes your whole view on what dementia is like for people and makes you a lot more compassionate,” Scotty said. “When there’s all that noise in their head and pain in your feet and your hands aren’t functioning, it’s really, really difficult.”
Lauren Northup, health education behavioral specialist at Absolute Health, said the tour experience was difficult, but helped her better understand individuals suffering with dementia.
“They want you to have a … do a list of activities, and the background noises made it very hard to hear the instructions themselves,” Northup said.
When it comes to caring for dementia patients, Northup said you have to be a little bit more patient with them.
Ikli said their service has provided the tours for two years and hopes it will allow people to be better prepared to help patients suffering from memory loss and cognitive impairment.
“I hope that people will be more patient, a little more understanding and make a greater effort to learn more, know more and to do more to ensure that our seniors who are affected by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are allowed to age with dignity,” said Ikli.