Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have dementia?
UVM Health Network Home Health & Hospice employees who work with memory care clients often do, so they recently took part in a “Walk in Their Shoes” dementia simulation in order to honor June as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
“It’s to make you feel like you have dementia yourself, so you can experience what your clients are experiencing,” explained Tanya Sealey, memory care director at The Residence at Quarry Hill.
Sealey guided UVM Health Network Home Health & Hospice staff through a presentation on how a client’s vision, hearing and dexterity are affected. For many, the most educational aspect was learning how memory car
e clients perceive different colors. Lime green, for example, is the last color people with dementia can see, which is why people often have tennis balls on the legs of their walkers.
Sealey asked a volunteer to put beans in her shoes and sport specialized glasses, headphones, a nose plug and lime green gloves with its fingers banded together.
UVM Health Network Home Health & Hospice Long-term Care employee Holly Burnham stepped up to the plate and allowed her gait, eyesight, hearing, breathing and dexterity to be compromised. She tried to complete a number of assigned tasks as other attendees added in background noise, increasing Burnham’s stress level.
When all was said and done, Burnham only heard one of a number of tasks. She couldn’t complete it in full and was flustered as she took off the props.
“I could barely hear what you were saying,” Burnham told Sealey. “All I heard was background noise. It was very confusing.”
Burnham feels she left with a more accurate outlook on what her clients are experiencing. That was the objective, says UVM Health Network Home Health & Hospice Community Care Services director Heather Filonow. “The goal is to understand where our clients are coming from.”