Experiencing Dementia


 Put on a sweater. 

Write a letter.

Set the table. 

All of these tasks sound easy enough, but for a person with dementia, they're nearly impossible. 

Marc Strohshein and the team at Senior Star is Davenport, are trying to teach people that lesson, through a simulator.

"It's supposed to help people understand what people with dementia are going through," he explains. "The goal is to take them from being sympathetic, to empathetic."

Senior Star starting offering the simulator about a year ago, giving people the opportunity to experience life with a mental disease. 

"I think that's what we need to understand, that people with dementia, they always weren't that way," Strohshein says. "We aren't inside their minds but we have to believe they have a great deal of frustration with it."

To understand that frustration, I decided to go through the experience, wearing items to cut down on my senses, like a person with dementia would feel. 

I wore thick gloves to cut down on sensation, colored and thick goggles to distort vision, and headphones feeding white noise, to create confusion. 

And it worked. 

I felt constantly confused. 

But it really gave me a sense of both sides of it, it would be hard to be a caretaker, but it would be hard to be a person with dementia, incredibly frustrating. 

"It's a really good opportunity to figure out what's going on in mom or dad's mind," Strohshein says about the simulation. "Families get really frustrated when a family member has dementia and their empathy is much greater when they see what experience they are having."

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