Dementia Friendly

SNAP’s own Tiny Read and Lu Salisbury participated in a “Virtual Dementia Tour” at La Cholla, and Tiny provided this reportback:
As the humans around the world enjoy increasing longevity, the incidence of dementia continues to rise. SNAP is part of a local and national effort to move communities toward dementia-friendliness.

Over 10 years, SNAP programming has helped reduce the stigma of dementia and create a “dementia-friendly” culture, including: Education programs about dementia; Caregiver relief volunteer service; senior living facility tours; monthly Caregiver Support Group meetings; participation in annual Walk and referrals to our local Alzheimer’s Association.

But what is a “dementia-friendly” community? It’s one that is “…informed, safe and respectful of individuals with the disease, their families and caregivers, & provides supportive options that foster quality of life.” Recently, The Fountains at La Cholla offered the Virtual Dementia tour to 14 business & nonprofit community leaders. The participants(including realtors, fiduciaries, caregivers, and two SNAP board members) who experienced what it might be like to live with dementia—at least for a ten minute period!

Outside a darkened room, each tour participant donned dark glasses with pinpoint vision, earmuffs playing loud music, uncomfortable, prickly foot pads and large, clumsy gloves. Instructions were given to each participant:

1.      Find and fold four towels

2.      Find and put on a necktie

3.      Find and count out $.17 and place the money in a purse

4.      Put on a jacket and zip it up

Between darkness, unfamiliar surroundings, blaring music, limited visual acuity and a steady stream of strobe lights, not one person in the group was able to accomplish all the tasks within the allowable time frame of five minutes. Some participants could not even hear the instructions and the docent/observer was not able to repeat the instructions.

The tour exposed the group to a multi-sensory experience intended to build a greater understanding of dementia. Several group members who participated expressed confusion, frustration, disappointment and anxiety. All came away with a greater awareness of what it was like to live with dementia—albeit for a very limited time—as well as how difficult it must be for caregivers to work with persons who have memory loss and /or confusion plus multiple health issues accompanying the dementia.

Learn more in 2019: January 28, 2019, SNAP’s Education program will include a Dementia Friends presentation.