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Virtual Dementia Tour Helps Caregivers Understand What It's Like

An experiential tour was meant for caregivers to gain a better understanding of how to interact with a loved one who has dementia.

Wonder what it's like for a person with dementia to walk, talk or interact?

It's impossible to know exactly what it's like to have dementia. But caregivers had the opportunity recently at Grand Villa of Largo to participate in a hands-on, interactive sensory experience, which simulates the mental and physical challenges faced by people with dementia.

Community members wore devices that simulated vision, hearing, walking and tactile impairments. This included goggles with special lenses impairing vision, headphones simulating noises in the head, bulky garden gloves making fine motor skills a challenge, and plastic shoe inserts making it harder to walk.

Wearing the various devices, participants walked down a hall and into an apartment suite, where they were given a series of everyday tasks to complete, such as finding a sweater, folding dish towels, clearing dishes off of a table and putting on a belt.

Some participants appeared to pause and try with difficulty to remember the next task. They would repeat out loud what it was they thought they were supposed to do next. Some could not remember all of the tasks or completed them only partially. 

Afterward, participants removed the props and discussed the experience.

Joi Lenoce of Largo said the experience was very uncomfortable. The worst part, she said, was the goggles, which were supposed to emulate macular degeneration. Being alone and having to do multiple tasks after being given the initial directions was challenging, she said.

"I would not want to do (the chores) by myself," said Lenoce, who cares for her husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about six months ago.

People think those with Alzheimer's "can't remember anything. It is so untrue. It's so much more than memory loss," Lenoce said.

The goal was “to inform people about the types of additional things that may happen, things that go along with dementia ... it helps caregivers to better understand how to interact and communicate,” said Larry Prescott, executive director of Grand Villa.

The recent Virtual Dementia Tour was the first in the area. The experience was developed originally by P. K. Belville, according to a spokesman for Grand Villa.

Have a Loved One with Alzheimer's?

Support groups are available for Alzheimer's caregivers in Dunedin:

  • Hale Senior Activity Center, 330 Douglas Ave; meets weekly on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Contact Peg Macaluso at 727-578-2558
  • Emeritus Assisted Living at Dunedin, 880 Patricia Ave; meets monthly on the last Tuesday at 6 p.m. Contact LaDonna Hylton at 727-743-4696

The Alzheimer's Association provides a 24-hour helpline at 1-800-272-3900. Find more support groups on the association's website.

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