ONEgeneration was fortunate to have this unique experience available at our 9th Annual Senior Symposium on Saturday May 20th, 2017.  Seniors, family members and caregivers were given a glimpse into the challenges their loved ones with dementia face daily.

What Is the Virtual Dementia Tour Program?

We Will Change the Perception of Aging

The Virtual Dementia Tour”  (VDT) was created by R.K. Beville, M.S., and was developed by the company she founded, Second Wind Dreams, a Georgia based charity that is dedicated to changing the perceptions of aging.

Homewatch CareGivers of Thousand Oaks is partnering with Second Winds Dreams to provide the Virtual Dementia Tour in order to promote a heightened awareness of dementia, improve the quality of care for those living with dementia and aid in maintaining the dignity and independence of local seniors.

The Tour gives able people a chance to feel what those with failing senses endure on a daily basis. Homewatch CareGivers is presenting the Tour to healthcare professional & caregivers, family caregivers and the public so they can have a deeper understanding of dementia and to help them move form “sympathy to empathy.”

If  “walking in another’s shoes” is the key to empathy, try literally walking with the tingling soles of a person with neuropathy, or writing a note with fumbling fingers, or trying to select what to wear when you can’t discern colors.

Each participant wears encumbrances that temporarily impair them both physically and cognitively while attempting to perform routine everyday tasks. While doing the Tour they become completely disoriented and disconcerted. Their brain just won’t do what they want it to do.

“One of our biggest challenges is getting people assisting with those with dementia to understand that this is not willful behavior; it’s the disease,” said Kris Martin, Owner of Homewatch CareGivers. “The Virtual Dementia Tour is a way to help them really get it.”

The tearful director of a nursing home said “I have a lot of apologies to make.” Presumably to her residents.

A social worker who took the tour said “Everyone responds in their own way but we’ve had caregivers who have worked for years with the elderly say things like, ‘I never really understood before what my clients are going through’, or, ‘I’m going to do things differently from now on.’”

Kris Martin, is the primary caregiver for her mother who has Alzheimer’s. After Kris completed the Tour, her comment was, “Oh my goodness, I just did 10 minutes in my mother’s shoes and it was very disturbing. My mother lives with this every day.” Taking the tour has allowed Kris to provide much better care and understanding of why her mom behaves the way she does.

All of Homewatch CareGivers of Thousand Oaks administrative staff has gone through the Virtual Dementia Tour training which qualifies them to be facilitators of the Tour. During August 2015, all our caregivers will experience the Tour which will help them to gain a better understanding of what a person with dementia is living with and improve their caregiving skills.

Kris Martin is very passionate about taking this Tour into the community to help caregivers, families, nurses, social workers, administrators, and other organizations serving the elders, to better identify with the day-to-day struggles of those with dementia, improving their ability to communicate and provide care.

Homewatch Caregivers of Thousand Oaks has created a mobile unit and they are offering the Tour at no charge to members of the public.

The research and experience of the Virtual Dementia Tour will change the way medical professionals, caregivers, family members and the general public view and work with people living with dementia. It is Kris Martin’s hope that society, in general, will someday perceive aging and its diseases in a more compassionate way. The Virtual Dementia Tour is a tool to help society develop a greater appreciation and acceptance of those living with the disease.

Statistics about Dementia – National Institute on Aging

    • There are approximately 35 million Americans over 65; by 2030 it is projected to double.
    • The number of those age 85 and older have increased 30 fold over the 20th Century.
    • Currently, 1 in 10 Americans are over 65; half of those over 85 are affected by dementia.
    • There are several different types of cognitive disabilities but Alzheimer disease (AD) is the largest category of cognitive diseases under dementia.
    • Over 5.3 million American have AD, by 2050 the number will range from 11 to 16 million.
    • A new survey of the next generation affected by AD, the baby boomers, found that they are not ready “emotionally, psychologically or financially,” to address the disease if new treatments and social awareness are not in step with the impending health crisis.
    • AD costs companies $61 billion a year, of that $25 billion covers AD healthcare and $36 billion covers costs related to caregiving for individuals with AD, including lost productivity, absenteeism and worker replacements.
    • 27% of elders with AD suffer from minor depression and 22% suffer from major depression.