The James L. West Alzheimer's Center in Fort Worth offers a variety of free services, including a virtual dementia tour, to caregivers and family members of people suffering from Alzheimer's.
According to the center, the Virtual Dementia Tour® is a scientifically proven, hands-on experience that builds a greater understanding of dementia and sensitivity in individuals caring for those with dementia through the use of sensory tools and instruction.
Julia Mason, of North Richland Hills, went through the tour to see what daily living is like for her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's and lives at the center.
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Jaime Cobb, Vice President Caregiver and Community Education, runs the program and equips Mason with the tools for the experience.
"I'm going put things on you that limits your senses, try to create confusion try to disorient you," Cobb said to Mason.
"The purpose of the virtual dementia tour is to mimic dementia as best we can, so we can provide better care for their loved ones, have a better understanding of what they're going through," Cobb said.
Mason puts on shoe inserts with sharp points to mimic neuropathy, a pins and needles sensation from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet and caused by diabetes or symptoms of medications.
Mason also wears thick gloves to mimic low circulation and arthritis.
Specialty eye glasses mimic cataracts and she wears headphones that emit background noise, which can distract and confuse dementia patients.
Cobb then takes Mason to a dedicated room, set up as a small bedroom, where she gives simple household tasks that Mason must perform with limited senses.
Mason says after ten minutes in the room, she felt confused, agitated and anxious.
"I felt like there was stuff I was supposed to do, so I needed to do it, even though I couldn't think of what it was. I thought I was trying," said Mason.
"Every time I walked, I just felt poking and that did not feel good, and I was trying to remember what you said and I could not remember what you said," Mason said to Cobb.
She says the experience brought her to tears and helps her appreciate the disease debilitating her father.
"I think anyone who has a parent needs to go through this," she said.
"Everybody knows somebody that has Alzheimer's and maybe it can give us a better appreciation for the people and what they go through, and we can be more patient and understanding with them."
The Virtual Dementia Tour® is free and by appointment only at the James L. West Alzheimer's Center to any member of the public who is a caregiver or family member of someone living with dementia.