HOUSTON - It's difficult for the family and friends of Alzheimer's disease patients to imagine what it's like to function with the disease. Although it's impossible to know exactly what it's like, a company called Second Wind Dreams sent one of their certified trainers to take Local 2's Owen Conflenti, Lauren Freeman and Anthony Yanez on a Virtual Dementia Tour.
First their senses were altered, all of them.
The trainer started by putting bumpy, irritating inserts in their shoes to simulate neropathy or nerve damage that often goes along with aging.
To further decrease their fine motor skills, the Local 2 talent put on gloves and the trainer taped their hands.
Because dementia is a disease of the aging, with aging comes other decreases in functions like vision.
They had to wear glasses that simulated macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Finally, they put on a headset with background noises and random loud sounds.
Then, they began their tour.
Owen, Lauren and Anthony went into another room where they were then given simple tasks to do, but with their senses dramatically altered, confusion set in immediately.
Owen couldn't hear his tasks. Lauren's tasks were to put on a white jacket, fold three pairs of socks and sweep up trash on the ground. Anthony's tasks were to put a belt through belt loops, take some pills in a pill box and fold some shirts.
Throughout the tour, Owen kept reminding everyone that he couldn't hear anything and was not sure what he was supposed to be doing. To make things harder, the lights in the room were dimmed and there was a flashing light in the corner.
Between the background noises, limited hand movement and vision, none of them completed their tasks.
Pam Brandon, who gave Owen, Lauren and Anthony the tour, said it changes everyone's perception of dementia.
"It's taking very simple tasks that we take for granted and it takes us for a very few minutes and puts us in their world," Brandon said.
The Virtual Dementia Tour was created by P.K. Belville , founder of Second Wind Dreams in Atlanta. Pam is a certified trainer for the Virtual Dementia Tour. They often give the tour to caregivers of the elderly, family members of those with dementia and anyone who works with older adults.
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