I had the opportunity to participate in a dementia reality tour that our firm co-sponsored at Pacific Gardens. The premise behind the tour is to experience what it is like to have dementia and to gain compassion and understanding from the experience.
The tour began by dividing the participants into small groups and outfitting us with shoe inserts, special gloves, goggles and headphones. The affects were uncomfortable and a little disorienting. We were then led to a typical efficiency apartment with the expected furnishings and personal items. A voice in the headphones gave each individual a series of daily tasks to complete.
It was hard to complete the tasks and no one in the groups that I met with was able to complete all of the tasks that they had been given through the headphones. Most of the participants were very surprised when they had the opportunity afterward to read the actual instructions that they had been given. The written list did not match their recollection of the verbal list. In the debriefing afterward some of the participants were adamant that the tasks had been impossible to complete because the necessary items were not available to complete the task. It turns out that everything that was necessary was available to complete the tasks, but we experienced the frustration of perhaps not finding things where we expected them to be.
I think that for me the hardest part was to remember all of the instructions that were given quickly amidst the distractions that were caused by the equipment I was wearing, especially the noises from the headset. The point that came across most strongly to me was that I need to be patient with someone with dementia. I need to give them time to respond to one thing at a time and understand that I may need to repeat an instruction when they are bombarded by distractions, some of which may not be distractions to me. I can also imagine how isolating it must be to live in this disorienting world and how much I would need the patient assistance of others.
* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.