Take the virtual dementia tour - AmericaNowNews.com

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Take the virtual dementia tour

The Virtual Dementia Tour helps caregivers for the elderly learn firsthand what it's like to step into the shoes of someone who suffers from dementia. America Now host, Leeza Gibbons recently took the tour with three caregivers. These few minutes changed her life.

Before beginning the virtual dementia experience Leeza spoke with P. K. Beville, the inventor of the VDT shared some important insights and information.

"Millions of family caregivers out there are not trained and they have a loved one living at home who is going deeper and deeper into the abyss. What is it you see most in these people and that you hope most to give them," asks Leeza.

"I think so many times families are as struck by the disease as the person with dementia and they become immobilized. One of the ways they cope with it is to try to put a little bit of a screen between themselves and the person that they love," says Beville, "There are so many ways that people can introspectively look at this disease and my hope is that this is their opportunity to do that."

"I'm about to do it and I have little butterflies. I really do, I have little butterflies because I'm about to experience something that my mom experienced. And my mom is gone, my grandmom's gone and it makes me feel closer to them. And I feel a little bit guilty because I didn't get to do it while they were living," says Leeza.

"Once a lot of family members who have experienced what you have experienced, go through it, the first thing that lights up in their head is, 'wow, I wish I had known,'" says Beville.

The tour starts by being outfitted with devices that simulate certain aspects of dementia along with physical impairments many seniors experience. The gloves cause loss of fine motor skills, so buttoning clothes becomes difficult. The goggles simulate macular degeneration and loss of peripheral vision, and the headphones restrict and distort hearing and comprehension.

Once geared up, Beville gave Leeza some tasks to perform in about five minutes – all sound simple – similar to what our loved ones with dementia might need to do in their daily lives.

Beville gives Leeza these instructions, "Set the table for 4, find and count out 17 cents in change and put it in the change purse, write down 5 brown things you would buy in the grocery store, fold all the towels, find the sweater and put it on and button 3 buttons. Your time starts now."

At this point Leeza is asked to perform some simple tasks while 'geared up'.

"Was I supposed to do something with the medicine? Oh, my gosh, I'm supposed to do something with the medicine," says a frustrated Leeza.

When it was over, everyone was stunned. But Leeza didn't expect it to affect her so deeply.

"That's really something, that's really something," says Leeza tearing up, "I don't think we realize how hard it is for them. You know. How hard it is. I couldn't remember three things she told me to do."

"Can you imagine being in an environment were you have this disease and nobody's giving you the details?," asks Beville.

"I really feel that this 'dementia' population is so misunderstood and so undervalued. And this really does give us a way to close the gap as you say, as a way to close the gap," says Leeza.

Copyright 2014 America Now. All rights reserved.

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