Imagine doing the simplest daily tasks, but with your eyes fogged over, ears filled with static noises and fingers without sensations.
That is what seniors with dementia, like those with Alzheimer's disease, go through every day.
A simulation event Thursday aimed to show the public what living with dementia feels like, said event instructor Amber Klempke.
Valley Park Retirement Center hosted the event at its Holts Summit location, 355 Karen Drive. The facility invited Klempke, the patient care coordinator at care provider CenterWell Home Health, to walk participants through the simulation.
The afternoon event was open to the public, as well as the staff at the facility and residents' relatives, facility director Jennifer Otto said.
Each participant would go through the dementia simulation one at a time. They would put on gloves, glasses that were fogged over and a headphone playing static noises.
The gloves recreated the loss of feelings in the fingers, the glasses represented the eyesight of elderly people with cataracts and the headphones simulated hearing impairment, Klempke said. Then she would ask them to remember three words and a list of tasks.
Then participants would have three minutes to put toothpaste on a toothbrush, put on a shirt and button it up, take out a bowl and pour cereal into it, fill up a glass with water, take out an aspirin and put it on a plate, take out a lip balm from a basket, and finally repeat the three words Klempke mentioned in the beginning. An average person without dementia would need three minutes to finish all those tasks.
"We do them without even thinking about them," Klempke said. "But with somebody that has Alzheimer's or dementia, it makes them exponentially more difficult."
After completing the simulation, participants could take away an informational handout from CenterWell on dementia. The document describes symptoms of the disease, its stages and effects, as well as tips on caring for people with dementia.
Some of the advice includes installing smoke alarms and nightlights, removing inside door locks and treating baths as a routine rather than daily activity, according to the document.
"The most important thing is to have patience and to meet that person, that loved one, where they are," Klempke said. "Don't try to reorient them to reality."
Cressida Gattermeir is the care coordinator at Home Helpers Home Care, which provides in-home care for seniors and others. Several clients of hers have Alzheimer's, but half of them have dementia. She joined this event because she would like some extra training, she said.
During the simulation, she was unable to button up the shirt or finish all the tasks in order. She found those parts to be the most challenging, she said.
"I think more about talking to a senior that might have dementia," Gattermeir said. "I know I tried to be slow, but sometimes a person needs it more than once."
The retirement center held a similar event around five years ago, Otto said. However, the facility was not able to hold any public events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is our first event since then," she said.
She hoped the event would teach people how to care for loved ones with dementia and gain more understanding on how seemingly simple tasks could be "severe struggles" for people with dementia.
"It gives a lot of insight on how my caregivers would treat somebody here that may have dementia," Otto said. "Or how you would care for somebody at home that has dementia."