RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- Common tasks like folding clothes, writing a letter, putting on a sweater, and taking a pill can make for frustrating experiences when you're wearing obscured goggles, walk with studded inserts in your shoes, and try to grasp objects while your fingers are gloved and taped up.
That's what Peggy Duffield experienced when she went through the virtual dementia tour provided at the Atria Del Rey assisted living center, by Right at Home in home care & assistance in Rancho Cucamonga on a recent Wednesday.
Duffield's mother, 82-year-old mother Beverly Thompson, resides in the dementia care unit of Atria Del Rey. After participating, Duffield said she's come away with a deeper understanding of what her mother may be going through.
"I'm probably taking away a perspective I've never imagined, because she still looks normal," Duffield said. "When I look at her, I still see the woman I knew. It's only when she tries to talk or she does things that aren't normal, I remember that she has a disease," Duffield said. "Now I know how difficult things are for her. You don't understand until you're actually put into that place ... it gives me a much deeper feeling for what she's going through."
The dementia tour, meant for the younger adult family members and caregivers of elderly loved ones, is an exercise that utilizes various wearable gear, incoherent sounds, and a flashing light, that handicap the senses, reasoning and mobility for the participant.
The goal is to provide a better sense of empathy for the impairments an elderly relative or loved one may be going through, in addition to encouraging the caregiver to consider getting professional in-home care or assisted living service for their aging loved one.
"It's an experience for caregivers and adult children to experience what it feels like to be an elder with dementia," said Erika Lemon, executive director for Atria Del Rey. "They'll be going through the program, getting some sensitization to the things that afflict our elders, such as arthritis, neuropathy, memory loss, vision loss, so it really gives them a clear understanding for what it is to be an elder, so that they can better care for their elders or seniors in their own homes, or be able to deal with them if they do move to assisted living.
Right At Home in-home care and assistance of Rancho Cucamonga provided the dementia tour gear for the tour. Prior to completing various tasks inside a residential room at the center, Duffield donned goggles, headphones to muffle sound, gloves and tape on her fingers. She also wore plastic studded inserts in her shoes to provide added discomfort.
Lemon said Atria Del Rey are considering holding the dementia tour on a quarterly basis.
"I think if you're not really experiencing it yourself, it's hard to understand how that feels," Lemon said. "So if you tell your loved one you need to take your pills, but they're having a hard time even opening a pill bottle or any of those tasks, (this allows participants) to be able to understand what that feels like so that perhaps there's more empathy or perhaps you realize your loved one really is struggling and maybe it is time for that in-home care or assisted living track."
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