New sensitivity training for caregivers -


New sensitivity training for caregivers

Right now in this country health officials estimate 15,000,000 unpaid friends and family members are caring for Alzheimer's and other dementia patients. America Now host, Leeza Gibbons reports.

"I know firsthand how challenging this kind of care is," says Leeza, "But now there's exciting news about a program that is providing profound insight to caregivers. And in many ways it could change everyone's perception of aging. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I, like many caregivers, truly couldn't comprehend how dementia was affecting her day-to-day life. Her struggles became my frustrations in trying to help her. That's why I jumped at the chance to find out about the Virtual Dementia Tour.

The VDT was created by clinical psychologist and geriatrics expert P. K. Beville, and over a million people in 17 countries have now gone through the process. Leeza asked P. K. a few questions.

"How do you describe the Virtual Dementia Tour," asks Leeza.

"The Virtual Dementia Tour is a sensitivity training tool that's been designed to simulate what it might be like to have dementia. We're looking at the moderate stage of dementia, which is where most hospitalizations and medications occur. And, a lot of the difficult behaviors," says Beville.

"And, you've been able to scientifically create an experience that might be similar. How do you do that," asks Leeza.

"I've been watching people with dementia since 1983," says Beville, "I've watched all of the different ways we care for them. I've watched things that work, things that don't work. So then I took that information, I coupled that with what happens in the brain of a person who's suffering with a form of dementia. I studied how those brain differentiations resulted in behavior. Then I had to figure out how to take a normal person and get them to do that.

What Beville developed is a scientifically-based tool kit of various devices worn by a participant to approximate the sensory feelings and perceptions of dementia. They are then given some simple tasks to perform and that's where she says the "Ah Ha!" moments of "virtual dementia" take place.

"Until we've taken the opportunity to actually walk in somebody else's shoes, take advantage of that moment to reflect on what that might be like," says Beville, "I think it should be bigger than that. See, I think that our whole community, our whole society, everybody from business owners to daycares should have some awareness of what's going on with their grandparents."

"For someone who has gone through the Virtual Dementia Tour, give me an example of how they might use the information from the experience in an encounter with an elderly person. Who might have mild cognitive impairment, for example," asks Leeza.

"You have a list at a grocery store," says Beville, "You know what you're supposed to pick up, but you get sidetracked by that lady who's giving you some food to eat. Then, you forget where you put the list, now you're standing in the middle of the grocery store. There's no one to help you. People are impatient. And, you end up going home and you don't have what you went there to get in the first place. Well, what if that lady who is giving them the samples, saw them put it in their back pocket, and says, "You know, Sir, that list is in your back pocket. Let me help you get that out."

"There is no reason, why we can't march our little fannies up there and say relax. I got this. And you help that person get through the tasks. It's just nice people. It's being nice," says Beville, "Having the sensitivity because you've gone through an experience that kind of woke you up a bit. Maybe this will help people to wake up a bit to our humanity."

Copyright 2014 America Now. All rights reserved.

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