Pendleton, OR – The Virtual Dementia Tour available at an Oregon medical center aims to offer caregivers and family members a full simulation of what it is like to live with dementia. Good Shepherd Medical Center offered dementia simulation tours in a room at the Hermiston Oxford Suites hotel earlier this month. Dozens of volunteers braved the Virtual Dementia Tour, stumbling headfirst into the world of dementia.
According to The Columbian, the Virtual Dementia Tour offers customized goggles, gloves, shoe inserts and headphones in order to fully simulate all the altered sense of dementia. The goggles are discolored with a dark spot on each lens in order to mimic macular degeneration, glaucoma and reduced peripheral vision. Gloves featured bumps on the interior that blocked sensory input and taping several fingers together added the feel of arthritis. Little nubs on shoe inserts gave the feeling of pins and needles to simulate neuropathy. Headphones introduce as stream confusing environmental sounds.
Volunteers in the Virtual Dementia Tour were told to make themselves at home in a suite. Attendants gave volunteers five tasks to complete, such as “set the table” and “write a note to your family and put it in an envelope.” Most volunteers couldn’t finish all the tasks. Instead, after completing a task or two they wandered around the suite trying to recall the remainder before giving up.
“It was very confusing,” said Gaile Yoder, a volunteer who took the tour because she cares for her 96-year-old mother with dementia. “I felt lost. I know how it looks from my side. I wanted to know how it looked from her side.”
Tammy Martin is a health educator who has worked with the elderly and dementia most of her career. She says the simulation replicates medium-to-severe dementia, with the goal being to induce a paradigm shift of understanding in volunteers. Martin recall one volunteer whose husband suffered from dementia.
“In the pre-test, she was not very compassionate,” Martin said. “She indicated her husband’s behaviors were intentional.”
After the tour the woman had a very different view of those suffering from dementia.
“She came out with a whole new attitude,” Martin said. “When she took her mask off, she was practically sobbing.”
The Virtual Dementia Tour sounds a simulation that all caregivers of dementia patients should choose to undergo. For anyone with a family member suffering with dementia, does the Virtual Dementia Tour alter your thoughts about what dementia-suffering seniors might go through?