Tour to educate public about dementia

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Free demonstration offered Tuesday at Allegro in E'town

By Amber Coulter

A demonstration at Allegro this week is aimed at helping caregivers and the public better understand the struggles and mentality of dementia patients.

The sensitivity training involves use of a Virtual Dementia Tour. The free tour is available to the public Tuesday at Allegro on Diecks Drive in Elizabethtown.

Reservations can be made by calling Allegro representative Carolyn Williams at (270) 765-4414.

The tour works by trying to make participants feel artificially aged through methods such as taping their fingers together to reduce motor function and wearing goggles that impair sight.

They are then asked to perform simple tasks, such as folding laundry, Williams said.

“It’s very low-tech,” she said. “It’s very interactive.”

Often, those simple efforts cause participants to act differently, Williams said.

“People walk like they’re old,” she said. “They talk to themselves. They start to exhibit behavior that we see people with dementia exhibit.”

Talking to themselves soothes participants, just as it does those who are elderly and deal with such limitations daily, Williams said.

Tour participants sometimes don’t remember much about the experience afterward or have an intense emotional response, she said.

“People get very sad. They get angry,” she said. “It’s very individualized, the reaction that each individual person has, just like the disease affects everyone differently.”

Williams and other Allegro employees hope the experience will help area residents understand those who have dementia have a different point of reference than others.

That can help caregivers and others who come into contact with dementia patients be more understanding, rather than frustrated when patients act in a way perceived as difficult or inappropriate, she said.

Dementia patients have to use a lot of energy simply to keep track of what is going on around them, Williams said.

“It’s a very, very difficult struggle to live with this type of impairment,” she said.

This is the first time the tour has been available to the public.

It has been used for training Allegro staff to make them more aware of how residents feel and allow them to provide better care, Williams said.

The Virtual Dementia Tour was created by geriatric specialist P.K. Beville, founder and chief executive officer of Second Wind Dreams. The nonprofit organization seeks to change perception of aging through efforts such as educating caregivers to understand physical and mental challenges facing those who have dementia.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.