COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho-- The illness that is diagnosed every four seconds, dementia, affects more than 50 million people worldwide.
The Lodge, an assisted living facility offers a virtual tour that can help caregivers and family members feel what their loved ones are feeling.
For every person suffering from dementia, there are caregivers who are also trying to cope and deal with major life changes.
The goal of the virtual tour is to put the mental and physical challenges that people with dementia face into sharper focus.
"We're trying to create awareness, we're trying to give people an opportunity to walk in their shoes, cause if you walk in their shoes, how much better of a caregiver would you be?" said The Lodge Executive Administrator Denise Sowell.
The virtual tour experience begins by being outfitted with accessories and devices that simulate specific aspects of dementia.
The outfit includes spiked plastic inserts that mimic what it is like to have neuropathy (or the pins and needles feeling) when circulation is cut off from your feet. The gloves are to cause the loss of motor skills that make it difficult to do everyday tasks like buttoning shirts and getting dressed. The goggles are to stimulate macular degeneration and loss of peripheral vision. The last piece to the outfit, headphones, are to distort hearing and comprehension by filling your ears with loud and distracting noise.
Participants of the virtual tour were told to do everyday chores such as setting a dinner table and opening a pill bottle in 10 minutes. Many had difficulties finishing the tasks in time.
"You are trying to maneuver out of something that you can't if you have dementia," said Director of Building Relations Nat Linda Davis. You tried this belt and now it's backwards, they sometimes lash out at their caregivers because they are so frustrated, but the caregivers are nothing but love."
Pat Ferriola, wife and dementia caregiver thought she knew everything to know about dementia until she tried the virtual tour. "I thought that I knew how to deal with this, of course when you live with it 24/7 it's very different," said Ferriola. "I couldn't see, you couldn't concentrate because of the noise that was constantly in your head and it was just frustrating."
In many cases, dementia patients don't look sick which makes it hard for caregivers to understand their limits and that can lead to a cycle of frustration and resentment.
The Lodge's Dementia Tour is open to the public and is free of charge. The whole tour takes around 20 minutes to complete.
For more information about The Lodge: http://lodgeliving.net/