Art of Aging: Virtual dementia

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Are you ready to change your perception of dementia?

Are you ready to change your perception of dementia?

A new program is helping people cope when their loved ones suffer from dementia.

At the Watermark retirement community's skilled nursing facility in Logan Square, caregivers of patients with dementia don headphones blaring random noises.

The caregivers put on eyeglasses that mimic macular degeneration or cataracts and gloves and shoe inserts that replicate the throbbing pain of arthritis.

Their challenge? To complete 5 simple tasks in ten minutes. It's a virtual tour of living with dementia.

Kathy DeClerico whose father is in middle stage Alzheimer's says, "I felt very overwhelmed I felt lost."

"I can't imagine doing that for 24 hours...just for the ten minutes that I experienced it was difficult, extremely difficult," said Diana Johnson whose mother is in early to middle stage Alzheimer's.

Administrators say the average person taking the virtual dementia tour can finish no more than 2 of the 5 assignments.

Amy Snyder, Skilled Nursing Administrator, Watermark says, "Its opened people's eyes to the disease by giving them more empathy, more patience If they have a family member with dementia.

And the hope is that when caregivers better understand the daily struggle, they'll become better caregivers.

Vanda Johnson, Personal Care program Director, Watermark said, "It changes their outlook on how they speak and understand a little bit better on why certain tasks just cannot be done."

Kathy DeClerico agrees, "This will make me better appreciate, knowing what he's going through each and every day."

Diana Johnson adds, "I suggest that every person who has a family member affected, go through this experience, its mind boggling."

The Watermark does offer the virtual tour to the outside community and they're preparing to launch an Alzheimer's support group as well.

For more resources on aging, you can head to our Art of Aging section.

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