GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - With 7.7 million new cases every year, dementia has become the fastest growing epidemic in the world and many don't even know they have it.
The disease robs a person of their memory and ability to communicate, but the hardest part of this disease may be the toll it takes family and friends.
“It's devastating, heart wrenching. She was so vibrant and all the sudden she starts declining. Not only in her memory but in her mood."
Gerilyn May and her sister Mary Wismer can only watch as their mother's dementia continues to rob them of the woman who was once their rock.
"You look at them and you think, 'OK, they're there physically, but then there's nothing behind it' so it's difficult.
"You grieve more than once," and at times even wonder what it must be like to live in a state of constant confusion.
Now, there's a way.
With the help of federal grant money, Holland Home in West Michigan recently implemented dementia simulation training for caregivers.
"When you look at someone who has dementia, it gives you an appreciation of how can they walk like that?" said Holland Home Nurse Educator Lynn Bolt. "How come their body language is such like that?”
Bolt helps train the care givers.
With the use of these props, the simulation blurs your vision, mimics arthritis, gives you foot pain and impairs your hearing. After that, care givers go through the simulation and are asked to do four tasks:
- Get a glass of water
- Set the table
- Write a note
- Put on a t-shirt
Rosemary Apolhoezee with Holland Home says the simulation has made a big difference in the way caregivers interact with dementia patients. "Realizing how vision is limited, they will get right in front of the person and they will approach them slowly and speak slowly.
"We've seen our staff members really put that into practice and people who have dementia really respond positively to that sort of approach."
Gerilyn says her experience with the simulation was eye opening. "It really helped me to be not so frustrated with her," and that's important because she wants to enjoy every moment in what little time she has left with her mother.
Every four seconds, someone is diagnosed with dementia.
If dementia care were a company, it would be the world's largest, grossing at $600 billion a year. That's how much this epidemic is costing now, and it will only grow as Americans live longer.
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