An Impactful “Dementia Experience”
At the 2014 National LeadingAge Convention, attendees could participate in a “Virtual Dementia Tour®” provided by Second Wind Dreams®, where one could experience, to a certain extent, the challenges people with dementia face in their daily lives. A group of Apollo staff jumped into participating, to gain better insight on what the “dementia experience” is like, from a first-hand perspective.
Prior to entering the experience area, participants donned glasses that simulated macular degeneration and reduced peripheral visions (studies have linked vision impairment as a contributing factor to dementia onset), put on thick gloves to simulate reduced touch sensory perception and hand dexterity, had inserts put into their shoes that poked the soles of the feet, creating a prickly sensation similar to neuropathy symptoms, and put on headphones that emanated a barrage of loud, distracting background noise. The sounds were everyday occurrences but the volume simulated the reduced ability of dementia sufferers to focus on specific sources such as the voice of a person with whom one is conversing. The combined effect of these stimulatory devices profoundly disrupted our senses that most of us take for granted.
A facilitator quickly read a series of what would normally be easy to follow instructions. However, the noise generated by the headphones significantly hindered one’s ability to comprehend these instructions.
After listening to the instructions, participants were left alone to complete the ordinarily simple daily tasks. Each member of our group reacted differently; one got frustrated and walked out of the experience center, one mumbled frustrated comments under her breath and virtually “shut down,” unable to approach the tasks. Another member of our group fumbled through partial completion of what he thought he was supposed to do and then moved on to his best guess at the remaining tasks. I completed what I could, then wandered about the area trying, with little success, to identify items in the area I “thought” might have been mentioned in the instructions.
For those of you who deal with dementia residents on a daily basis, our reactions to the exercise probably sound familiar. At the end of the exercise we were debriefed to help us learn from the experience. We learned that dementia sufferers require eye contact from someone directly in front of them to help them see who is speaking to them and to stay focused, that they respond best to instructions given in simple, short sentences. Those suffering from dementia greatly benefit when given the opportunity to confirm their understanding, and they need others to be cognizant of their compromised eyesight, especially peripheral vision. We also gained new insight and empathy for the victims of dementia and the impact that sensory impairment has on their lives. We can only imagine how reduced cognitive health combines with these disabilities and the impact on one’s quality of life.
As Apollo specializes in bathing, we discussed how the challenges in serving the needs of those who live with dementia might affect the bathing process, and how Apollo systems may better support residents and their caregivers as they cope with dementia. Our spas always position the resident so they have a full view of the room and the caregiver to facilitate a sense of control and security during the bath. The Level Glide™ Transfer System is designed to back residents into the system, thus allowing staff to maintain eye contact and vocalize short, easy-to-understand instructions to residents to alleviate anxiety in the process and to facilitate a face-to-face conversation during the bath.
We actively discourage spa room planners from adding distractions like televisions which interfere with the resident’s ability to hear the caregiver and discourage social interaction. The sound of the whirlpool itself emits a lower frequency of sound than air spas, helping residents to isolate conversation with the staff from background noise. Most significantly, when equipped with the whirlpool feature, Apollo spas are FDA class II medical devices for hydrotherapy. Studies have demonstrated the physical therapeutic benefits to the extremities, circulatory system, skin health, and more, as well as support cognitive health through induced relaxation, improved blood flow and endorphin production and other restorative benefits.
In all, this experience helped us better understand Apollo’s role in the care of those coping with dementia and opportunities for further improvements in the future. We encourage everyone in our industry to take part in an educational virtual experience and gain greater insight into the dementia experience and opportunities for superior care of those who need it most.
To learn more about the Virtual Dementia Tour® through Second Wind Dreams®, visit http://www.secondwind.org