ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Imagine what it would be like to have no memory, pain in your feet, numbness in your hands, and vision and hearing loss. That is what millions of Americans with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease deal with every day.
Now there’s unique training offered at Village Concepts Retirement Communities where health care workers and family members can experience what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a dementia patient.
It is a dementia sensitivity program that shows what it’s like to live with macular degeneration, arthritis, neuropathy and sight and hearing problems. Participants typically wear goggles that impair eyesight. They also wear shoe inserts that have miniature spikes in them, headphones that play loud background noise, and wear rubber gardening gloves turned inside out. Then an instructor gives the participant a list of five things to do, like folding laundry or tying a tie.
“You’re kind of flying by the seat of your pants,” said Judy Blasko, resident care director of Spiritwood at Pine Lake in Issaquah. “We’re trying to make it known the changes that happen with the resident.”
Because it’s not state-mandated training, many health providers do not offer this kind of service. Village Concepts says it is one of two facilities in the state that offers it to its staff members and the community.
“It was very eye opening,” said Paula Parks, whose mother is an 86-year-old dementia patient. “I just felt like a bundle of nerves after I got out of there. My mom will say, ‘I’m just so nervous’ over just the littlest things, ‘ but now I can kind of see where just getting dressed or figuring out what she’s going to have for lunch is a lot bigger task than I realized.”