This month, JFCS staff had first-hand experience with dementia. Well, simulated dementia, that is … in the form of the Virtual Dementia Tour. Our friends from Arden Courts kindly facilitated the experience, which mimics several common components of aging and dementia.
Each staff member was given a combination of physical, visual and auditory impairments, and then he or she was asked to complete a short series of simple tasks. Possible tasks included locating and putting on an item of clothing, writing a short letter, setting the table, pouring water into glasses, sorting socks, drawing a picture and folding towels.
Most of these are things that we find to be very easy in our day-to-day lives, but they became nearly insurmountable when combined with our artificial impairments. When we met to discuss the experience as a group, many employees voiced their surprise at the difficulty of the exercise and the strength of their own reactions to it.
Many of us were frustrated and embarrassed by our failure to complete these small tasks correctly. The coordinators were not allowed to assist us or provide additional instruction, so we felt isolated and alone in our frustration. Some of us even gave up on completing a few tasks, because they were too difficult to manage alone.
This is just a short glimpse into what some older adults experience every day. As counselors and caregivers, we found it valuable to put ourselves closer to the position of our clients and loved ones who suffer from memory disorders. We hope that the experience will help us to feel less frustration and show more compassion toward those who need our help and support the most.
For a more in-depth look at the Virtual Dementia Tour, check out this segment from ABC’s Nightline.
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