Mercy Hospital and Country Place Senior Living partnered together Monday and Tuesday to provide members of the community an opportunity to learn about the effects of dementia and experience what it could feel like to have such a disease.
The approximate 60 participants in the tours were given a list of tasks to complete in a patient’s room at the hospital, including assignments such as folding towels, taking ‘pills,’ setting the table, putting clothes away, picking up trash or even just plugging a phone into its charger.
But while doing these tasks, they had to wear specific sunglasses that impaired their vision, inserts for their shoes that caused discomfort, gloves that limited dexterity and headphones that blocked their hearing while adding other sounds such as traffic or other everyday noises. Those items allowed them to experience what someone with dementia could suffer from, such as macular degeneration, arthritis or neuropathy.
“We’ve given you the sense of what it would feel like to have dementia,” said Cheri Bauer, director of operations at Country Place, whose memory care facility should be complete in March.
While no two cases are the same, Bauer said such physical ailments can be a common result, as well as problems with memory that can cause people to forget their own loved ones or suddenly not recognize the places they frequent regularly.
Sisters Barbara Freer and Cecelia Kramer participated in the tour, saying they have had family members who died of Alzheimer’s as well as their sister who is currently facing later stages of the disease.
“It made me feel so sad that people have to live with this,” Kramer said after going through the tour, while Freer said the tour was very worthwhile for them.
Darcy Sims, director of the Country Place facilities, said several family members of those with dementia participated in the tour as well as caregivers who help care for people with the disease regularly.
“The families are so desperate for health and advice,” Bauer said, saying music therapy has often helped while doctors should also be asked for assistance for decisions such as preventing them from driving.
Because of the level of interest in the tour and limited number of spots, the hospital will again host the virtual tours Feb. 18, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“You get to walk out,” Bauer said when the participants finished the tour after about five minutes in the simulation, expressing the anxiety and confusion the experience caused. “Our loved ones don’t.”