Halcyon House staff hosted a “Dementia Live” event Thursday to give caregivers of people with dementia a chance to experience the disease.
Peggy Grothe, a nurse at Halcyon House, said this training is slowly being completed by all staff members, but they felt opening it up to the public as well would be beneficial. Dementia, she said, is a disease many people do not understand because it is a brain disorder that does not display physical symptoms.
“A lot of people don’t have the reality,” she said. “This kind of brings that to their mind and gives a little bit of information that explains dementia to people and that knowledge to them as well.”
Participants in the event went through three stages where they learned more about dementia, played a game used by therapists to help jog the memory and experienced a seminar where their senses were impaired to help better simulate the symptoms of dementia.
In the seminar, participants wore headphones, which played noisy music, glasses that blocked their peripheral vision and gloves which impaired their sense of touch, as these are all real symptoms dementia patients can face. Once their senses were impaired, four participants at a time walked into a room and were each given a list of five different tasks to attempt to complete. The goal was for the participant to focus through the noise and other obstacles to complete the five tasks.
She said she felt by going through the seminar and other exercises, caregivers would be able to walk out with a better understanding of how difficult living with dementia can be. With this new knowledge and experience, she hoped caregivers would be able to have a new, positive approach to those with dementia because they have the ability to relate better.
Tracy Laws, Director of Lending Hands Adult Day in Washington, went through the training previously and found it beneficial to understanding a disease not many know about. She said when she was in the room and trying to complete the tasks, she could not focus because of the distractions and other people around. She found herself panicking at times because other people seemingly knew what they were doing and she could not remember the tasks at hand.
Susan Wellington, Marketing Director of Halcyon House, administered this seminar and said it was hard to watch as the participants struggled, but was glad to see people participating because she felt by experiencing the disease, even if for five minutes, caregivers would have a better foundation to understand and help patients.
“I think that oftentimes a person with dementia looks the same and we don’t see any physical change like we do with other diseases, so to actually experience what they may see and feel, it makes a big difference as to how we work with that person and even how we interact on a daily basis,” she said.