In an effort to cultivate awareness of the difficulties faced by those afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, Oxford senior living home Emeritus and The University of Mississippi‘s Department of Social Work hosted a Virtual Dementia Tour on March 27.
The American Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, the sixth-leading cause of death.
The association also estimates that those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias were cared for by more than 15 million caregivers who provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care last year.
Designed to provide the public with an understanding about the life of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia disorders, the Virtual Dementia Tour is comprised of desensitizing exercises.
“For anywhere from six to eight minutes, you get to experience what many senior adults experience 24/7, every day of their life,” director of Emeritus Sandra Enfinger said of the experience.
“It’s wonderful for the employees and the care staff because you kind of think you know what senior adults go through, but you have no clue, absolutely no clue.”
Jo Ann O’Quin, facility expert in aging and care, said she believes the impact of outreach efforts such as the tour cannot be understated.
“This experience is good for anyone, but especially for caregivers, staff and family, as well as those who are interested in the aging process,” O’Quin said.
“My gerontology students who may work with older adults seemed to really value, and benefit from, the experience.”
P.K. Beville, a specialist in geriatrics, designed the Virtual Dementia Tour as “a tool (for caregivers) to move from sympathy to empathy and better understand the behaviors and needs of their loved ones and patients,” according to the website for the tour.
Completing the tour involves using goggles that affect vision, gloves that affect dexterity and headphones that emit a sound similar to what those living with dementia have described hearing.
Junior social work major Jeremy Scruggs said that he was only able to adequately manage two of the five constituent tasks.
“Before I went into the tour, with all the information I would learn, I thought I understood how it would be,” Scruggs said.
“But I saw a whole other side of life that a text or what we went over in class couldn’t show me.”
Enfinger hopes to set up another public tour sometime in May and encourages the public to attend.