By Hannah Volz, Assistant Director of Community Outreach/ Alzheimer’s Association
Today, like most days, was crazy… I know many of my friends and coworkers understand what it’s like to go nonstop into back-to-back meetings and never really have a moment to pause and breathe. At the end of this particularly crazy-busy day, I scheduled myself to participate in a virtual dementia training experience.
Not really knowing what to expect, I rushed into the assisted living facility hosting the virtual dementia training, with just a couple of minutes to spare. I found my seat, and took the first moment I had all day to catch a deep, even breath.
AND THEN SOMETHING VERY UNEXPECTED HAPPENED…
I don’t think I was fully prepared mentally or physically for what happened over the next two hours… While I had the general knowledge that the virtual dementia training was difficult, I could never have made myself ready for what transpired…And even though I know the tour can in no way give me a full experience of what living with Alzheimer’s and dementia is like, I was terrified, confused, disturbed, anxiety-ridden, embarrassed and exhausted for a few hours. I can’t imagine this experience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
WELCOME TO THE TOUR…
Essentially what happens in a virtual dementia training is that you are provided with materials like sticky gloves that limit your dexterity. You also receive eye glasses that limit your vision, shoe inserts that make it uncomfortable to walk, and bulky headphones that play a very (VERY) noisy and disorienting soundtrack. Then an instructor very quietly gives you a set of tasks to accomplish in five minutes and leads you into a room to do the tasks she asked you to do. I was already unnerved. I couldn’t hear a word the instructor told me, and stood in the middle of the room bewildered and confused until she pointed at something to lead me in the right direction. P.S. She didn’t.
To be candid, I was bordering on a panic attack – fumbling around confused, frustrated, and embarrassed as the instructor watched me muddle through folding the pile of clothes on the chair and attempt to set a dinner table. I’m still not entirely sure if that was what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. The simple tasks were extremely hard, and it was only a small taste of life with dementia.
ALZHEIMER’S SUCKS! This is an extreme understatement. In my weary and somewhat now-fragile mental state, I have no other way to describe it. But I’m so proud of the work the Alzheimer’s Association is doing to care and support those facing the disease today and the goals they have for the future. I wouldn’t be anywhere else than here. #ENDALZ