Pretending that I have Dementia

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a Virtual Dementia Tour at Arden Courts Alzheimer’s Assisted Living in Annandale, VA.  The tour is a program created by Second Wind Dreams and administered by three Arden Courts staff members.

I was joined by my colleague Marlene Zaborsky and a staff member at Arden Courts for the tour.  After a brief consultation, we moved into the community where we were “outfitted” for the tour. As you can see from my flattering photo, each of us were fitted with gloves to simulate Arthritis, goggles to simulate Macular Degeneration, an ill fitting jacket, and corn kernels in our shoes to simulate peripheral nerve damage. However, the most dramatic element was a headphones with a truly confusing mix of noises.

At this point I was completely confused, I realized that someone was giving me some instructions and leading me into an apartment for the tour. I barely heard the instructions, once in the apartment I tried to muddle through tasks.  Halfway through, Marlene entered the room in the same attire; we quietly went about our business.  I later learned she didn’t hear any of the instructions and was just following my lead.  She had a complete different set of instructions! The entire experience only lasted ten minutes, but it seemed like it was much longer.

After the three of us concluded the tour, we all met to discuss the experience with the moderation of our leaders. An Arden Courts staff member was in the room during our each of our tours and shared her observations on our behavior. It was very interesting to hear someone talk about your reactions when you are under the limitations of this simulation.

There are definitely a few more details, but overall the Virtual Dementia Tour really opened my eyes to what some of the challenges that others may be facing.  My tour was only ten minutes long, and its simulating disabilities that will last a lifetime for many people.

I would not change any aspects of the tour, if feel it’s truly effective at sensitizing you to a different perspective.  However, I feel it’s important to recognize that all elders don’t necessarily have all the disabilities that it simulates. I feel that this would be valuable experience for those providing direct care to elders (which Arden Courts does) and family members.  I am eager to begin reflecting on the perspective I gained from this tour.

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