Virtual Dementia Tour

Trying to mimic the feelings of a person with dementia, caregivers often go through a virtual tour, aiming to increase empathy for dementia patients. Some of their experiences include the following feelings and emotions.

It was dim; my world was reduced to shadows but the worst part were the spikes inside my shoes. Then there was the crackling static and loud banging that crowded out the sounds I really needed to hear. I couldn’t hear the instructions as I sat in a darkened room. My fingers couldn’t feel and I was confused…why was I there and what was I supposed to do? I could see her mouth move, giving the instructions but I couldn’t ask any questions. I looked at a table with a stack of plastic plates, cups and cutlery. My mind was spinning. How do you lay a place setting but why was I even setting the table? I wanted to arrange and straighten things but as I got up I was scared. I had nausea, was disoriented and frustrated; it made me nervous and all of a sudden I felt hot. I couldn’t see well but wanted to pick up everything I could and keep it for myself and then everything seemed all messed up. I wanted to fix it. Another person in the room was trying to fold laundry. I couldn’t see her well but she seemed to know what she was doing so I tried to copy her actions. I tried to match socks from the pile on the bed but only saw dark shapes and my fingers couldn’t distinguish the fabrics. Then I jumped from a loud crash as a flash of white light stabbed the darkness.

This virtual tour was developed by P. K. Beville for the nonprofit organization, Second Wind Dreams. In developing the tour, “I was mainly curious about how the brain dies, and what are the behavioral implications of cell death in the brain.” She studied brain imaging of people with dementia and looked at how the affected areas relate to actual behavior to simulate experiences as part of the project. “After eight minutes during the tour, we began to see some of the behavioral responses that we actually see in a memory care unit,” she said. The tour encourages feedback from participants and provides insight into why patients with dementia behave in certain ways. For more information go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/loud-banging-foot-pain-and-flashes-of-light-my-eight-minutes-as-a-dementia-patient/2017/12/25/955774da-e685-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html