Understanding what it’s like

Virtual Dementia Tour offers a walk-in-their-shoes perspective

PRESENTATION — Karen Shilling-Darago, standing, regional vice president sales and marketing, Right At Home, reviews a participation form for the Virtual Dementia Tour with Jaime Herald. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — The mental and physical challenges that people with dementia and Alzheimer’s face came into sharper focus for some participants involved in a Virtual Dementia Tour offered by representatives of Right At Home In Home Care and Assistance.

Capital Health’s Carriage House in Steubenville was where the presentation unfolded and although it largely involved the participation of employees, the program was made available to the public as well.

That’s also the case with the next one scheduled at Capital Health’s Gables Care Center at 351 Lahm Drive, Hopedale, according to Nancy Felton, community liaison for Capital Health. It will be held Thursday, beginning at 9:45 a.m. For information, contact Felton at (740) 391-3311. There is no charge for the public to participate, and it will include breakfast.

The Virtual Dementia Tour, according to promotional material, uses patented sensory tools and instruction based on research conducted by P.L. Beville, a specialist in geriatrics and the founder of Second Wind Dreams, “an internationally known nonprofit organization created to bring elders to the forefront of our society by enriching their lives and empowering them to age with dignity, hope and joy.” The VDT is used “as a tool to train professional and family caregivers, staff and physicians in eldercare communities, hospitals, colleges and universities, government agencies, community leaders and first responders to help develop dementia-friendly communities on aging worldwide,” promotional material notes.

During a Virtual Dementia Tour experience, trained facilitators guide participants outfitted with patented devices that alter their senses while they try to complete common everyday tasks and exercises. The tour enables caregivers to experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges those with dementia face and use the experience to provide better person-centered care, according to a news release.

Felton said Capital Health was hosting the VDT “because there’s a huge population of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s in the area. Every 67 seconds somebody is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, (in the United States) and a lot of people don’t realize what they go through and how difficult it is just to maintain a normal sense of living.”

Felton added, “The whole purpose of having this educational community program is to let people understand what people with dementia go through, how they see the world. We just think, oh yeah they’re forgetful, but there’s so much more to it as to why they see the world the way they do.”

She added that anyone can benefit from participating in the VDT.

The presenters at the Carriage House were Karen Shilling-Darago, regional vice president sales and marketing, Right At Home, with office presences in Wheeling and Morgantown, and Laurie Labishak, marketing communications specialist. Participants do a before and after survey.

While Felton participated in the VDT, so, too, did several employees, including Abby Harcharik, medical records director, who had a personal interest in participating, as relatives have suffered from dementia.

“I hope to take away more of an understanding of what these people go through because of the fact that I deal with them on a daily basis as well as dealing with people in my personal life who have been greatly affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Harcharik noted.

Jaime Herald, administrator in training at the Carriage inn of Steubenville and Carriage Inn of Cadiz, described the VDT as “an eye-opener” that gave her a better perspective.

“I had a grandmother who had dementia, and we took care of her for years, and you think you understand it completely from their perspective, and you try to understand it, but after that experience, no,” she said. The experience can translate into helping to provide improved care, she agreed.

“It gives us that opportunity to be able to understand their needs and what all they’re going through so we can accommodate them,” she noted.

Shilling-Darago said VDT presentations can be arranged by contacting her at (304) 322-4889 or at KarenShillingDarago@RAHcares4U.net.

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