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For eight harrowing minutes, I got an all-too-real lesson in what it might feel like to live with dementia.

I felt befuddled. Disoriented. Frightened. And ready to scream in frustration.

Fortunately, it was only for eight minutes. But that was more than long enough to give me a sense of what it might be like to have Alzheimer’s disease.

My brief descent into the world of dementia was by invitation, and harrowing though it was, I’m glad I accepted.

The invite came from the Carrier Clinic, one of the largest behavioral healthcare centers in New Jersey. Among the people who the clinic serves are adults over 60 with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

In 2017, the clinic began offering employees a program called the Virtual Dementia Tour, which is designed to let them experience first-hand the kinds of physical and mental challenges that people with dementia face.

“It’s compassion training, it’s a sensitivity training,” says occupational therapist Nicole Kiseli. “It allows people the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone with dementia, and get a sense of what the patient’s life is like.”

There are more than 5.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, and caring for people with this dreadful disease can be daunting for experienced health professionals, let alone family members trying to take care of a loved one at home. When care-givers actually experience what Alzheimer’s might feel like, it gives them a whole new frame of reference, says Molly Fogel, director of educational and social services for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

“It’s a start to the conversation,” Fogel says. “They say, ‘Oh my goodness, I had no idea this is what mom is experiencing every day. This is scary.'”

The Virtual Dementia Tour that I went through has been around for more than a decade, and its creator, Second Wind Dreams, says more than a half a million people have been through it. And the opportunity to experience a simulated form of dementia will become even more accessible in the near future, as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America prepares to launch a virtual reality version. That effort was on the national stage in March when it was presented in a workshop at the annual conference of the National Association of Aging in San Francisco.

Fogel says people who don the virtual reality headset get to “briefly experience what it’s like to step into the shoes” of someone with Alzheimer’s.

“Especially …read more

Source:: New Jersey Real-Time News

      

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I ‘experienced’ Alzheimer’s for 8 minutes. Here’s what happened

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