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What does it feel like to have dementia?

Virtual Dementia Tour coming to Redwood Falls.

Confusion. Fear. Frustration. These are just a few of the emotions that people suffering with dementia experience on a daily basis. In an effort to help caregivers and those who work with dementia sufferers understanding of these feelings, the Redwood Area Dementia Awareness Network (RADAN) will be conducting a Virtual Dementia Tour between 1:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 in the lower-level conference rooms of the ACMC Clinic in Redwood Falls, located at 1110 East Broadway. Karen Christensen, who represents RADAN and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Redwood County,  stressed that the tour and program following it is for the caregivers of dementia sufferers, and not for people with dementia. The tour is a 20-minute virtual passport into dementia. Christensen said it is designed to give caregivers, family members and anyone who works with persons with memory loss to gain a better understanding of what the person with memory loss is experiencing, and help them be a more empathetic caregiver. “In Minnesota alone, there are something like 90,000 families that have someone with dementia,” Christensen said. “There a lot of people who are facing what it is like to live with and care for someone suffering from dementia. It is a difficult journey to have to take. “This tour gives you the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone with Alzheimer’s, dementia or memory loss. You experience the frustration, insecurities and confusion that comes with dementia.” During the tour, participants are “geared up” and sent into a room to perform five basic tasks. Being geared up limits sight, motion, mobility, hearing and dexterity. In addition, there are things done to make the room confusing. Christensen said she didn’t want to give too much away before the event, but asserted the effectiveness of this kind of experience. “You get to find out firsthand what it is like to have dementia, and other health problems on top of that,” Christensen said. “Then you have to be able to remember what to do once you get into the room and in what order. We add the mobility and vision into the experience, because most people with dementia are elderly and dealing with more than just memory loss.” The problem of Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss is only going to get more and more common in the coming years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Today 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – 5.2 million of whom are age 65 or older. Two-thirds of those with the disease – 3.4 million – are women. As time goes by, the numbers just keep getting bigger and bigger. In America alone, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds. By 2050, it is anticipated that an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds, more than doubling the number of people with the disease. Lynn Buckley, Caring Connections ACMC in Redwood Falls, said that these virtual tours have been effective in the past in getting across the point of what a dementia sufferer is going through. “There have been some emotional responses,” Buckley said. “People get just a small taste of what it is like, and how overwhelming the disease can be.” In addition to the virtual tour, which run from 1:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., RADAN will be hosting Anne McKinley, RN, from the Meeker Memorial Hospital’s Center for Senior Behavior. She will give a talk on dementia in the elderly and what their behaviors tell us and how to effectively deal with these behaviors. Both Buckley and Christensen stated that seating and time is limited for the tour and guest speaker afterwards. To make an appointment, call Karen Christensen at 507-627-1016. “It can be very stressful to be the caregiver of someone with dementia,” Buckley said. “One minute they can be just fine, and the next angry, scared and confused. You never know from day-to-day, hour-to-hour what behaviors you’ll be met with. “This whole day is geared to helping the caregivers understand what their loved one is going through, to develop empathy and how that can help.”

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