Imagine what it is like to have dementia… It can be described a hundred different ways – a gradual loss of self, a fading away, but what does it actually feel like from inside? Mitch Reitman, the Ombudsman Services Development Director and I had the opportunity to experience a tiny bit of that reality when we participated in Sunrise Senior Living’s “Dementia Reality Tour”.
First we were surveyed about our sense of self – were we confident that we could perform tasks, were we happy etc. But of course….
Then we donned head phones and a loud raucous seminar on cyborgs and scientific data played in my ears against the backdrop of cocktail party noises. This imitates the feeling of not being able to filter out the ambient noise.
We pulled on thick canvas gardening gloves with the little nubby no slip rubber dots. Now I can’t really feel my way forward.
Finally we put on glasses with the center part darkened to obscurity and the edges smudged with vasoline.
Now orient yourself. Okay…..
We were given four tasks to perform in sequence. “What, I can’t hear you?” “ I knew there was something about a neck tie, but what I was hearing didn’t have anything to do with a tie” All the plastic silverware felt the same through the thick gloves so I set the table for four – two knives at one place setting and two forks at the next. It was only because she kept repeating – there are four tasks that I was able to remember what I was supposed to do. It was exhausting!
What were my lessons? Speak slowly, don’t give too many directions at once, be patient, be kind, touch gently and have great respect for the resilience of people who cope with a completely different sensory world! Thank you to Sunrise Senior living for this experience.
– Kirsten Irgens-Moller