Educational training offers look into life with dementia

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NATCHEZ — A group of local caregivers and health care professionals stepped into the shoes of people living with dementia Tuesday at Merit Health Natchez.

Compassus and Mississippi Department of Mental Health teamed up to provide an interactive “tour” to participants to simulate what it is like to perform daily tasks for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Participants were divided into groups of two to four and were asked to perform simple tasks, including setting a dinner table, putting batteries in a flashlight and setting a clock.

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While performing the tasks, participants wore tinted and blurry sunglasses, mittens, and headphones playing abstract noises, along with other features designed to temporarily throw off their senses..

Dementia care trainer Melora Jackson with Mississippi Department of Mental Health said she conducts a variety of dementia care training in the region, but said the tour is her favorite teaching tool because it is the most hands-on.

“It really does change the behaviors of caregivers and staff, because once they get that, they really are a lot more patient,” Jackson said.

Hospice care consultant Jason Dauphin with Compassus said many area residents live with dementia. The tour, he said, geared toward providing training for relatives of dementia patients families,  caregivers and medical professionals.

“Families do not know what to do,” Dauphin said, “The big thing is they help families and caregivers understand there are more resources to support them.”

Following the tour, Jackson talked to the participants about their experience.

During the tour, participants exhibited nervous laughing or talked to themselves. Some participants stopped attempting the tasks during the tour.

Jackson said sometimes dementia patients are observed sitting and staring. That does not indicate, she said, that patients are not aware of what is going on, but said daily life can be can be overwhelming for people living with dementia in ways that it is not for others.

Marie McCall participated in the tour in an attempt to experience what daily life is like for her father.

“It made me more understanding of what my father is going through,” she said.