-Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
A new program launched by Morningside Ministries aims to provide caregivers with a system simulating what it’s like to have dementia so that they themselves can experience the frustrations of aging and ailing seniors.
Nancy Thompson, mmLEARN.org executive director, says, “If we understand why someone has particular behaviors or particular challenges, then our tolerance improves and we can understand.”
After brief instructions, the Virtual Dementia tourists are led into a room and given few short minutes to complete five household tasks. It’s not as easy. 68-year-old Janet Haskins said, “I felt overwhelmed remembering all tasks which was extremely frustrating.”
Simple barriers like instructions with missing letters sensitize participants to what the elders go through. A debriefing afterwards reveals what makes older adults with dementia act the way they do. “Life isn’t so easy,” said Thompson. “But if we can experience that, we may have a different level of understanding and empathy.”
Till recently, Morningside Ministries had started the Virtual Dementia tours for health care staff and home-based caregivers to help cope with growing social issues.
“It gives me more sensitivity towards them,” Haskins commented. “To me, it’s very important to be reassuring to someone who is going through it. To be sensitive and have lot of patience.”
The Virtual Dementia tour is offered free of charge to community caregivers.