Alzheimer’s simulation offers better understanding of disease behaviors

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – The Alzheimer’s Association of Abilene hosted Alzheimer’s simulations Friday, offering visitors the chance to get a better understanding of the difficulties Alzheimer’s patients face in their everyday lives.

The simulation begins by guests first putting on gear: cotton gloves to mimic aged hands, dark glasses to simulate reduced vision, and, the most jarring of all, soundproof headphones that play a loop of typical daily sounds such as radio chatter, dogs barking and sirens wailing in the distance.

Guests are then ushered to another room where different items: pillowcases, notepads, piles of clothes are laid out on folding tables, the tour leader then gives each guests five tasks to accomplish.

The tasks are simple enough – “find the black shirt and fold it”, “feed the dog”, “take the pill [actually a Tic-Tac] for Tuesday morning” – but when combined with all the sensory hurdles, most participants only accomplish a couple of their assigned tasks.

“I am a caregiver for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients,” said Kaylan Shaw who went through the simulation with her family. “I was familiar with the kind of frustrations but doing it myself was a much different experience.”

One of the goals of the simulation is to help Alzheimer’s caregivers understand why those with the brain disease may engage in particular behaviors.

Another goal of the simulation is to offset the frustrations that can arise from Alzheimer’s symptoms – something Glen Brooks experienced with his wife after she was diagnosed.

“I remember one time I was really yelling at her and I said I give up and walked out of the room. She came to me 30 minutes later and said I don’t remember what I did but I’m sorry,” said Brooks.

Patience is a key to maintaining good communication with Alzheimer’s patients, which is something neuropsychologist Dr. Sam Brinkman says is crucial to keeping up a patient’s quality of life.

“Alzheimer’s disease is very isolating even if the person is in the presence of other people,” said Dr. Brinkman. “The sense of being isolated because people don’t understand what they’re going through can become very great.”

Dr. Brinkman suggests that caregivers come prepared to take conversations slowly and ease the discussion on as needed.

“If you are the person that is taking to the individual with Alzheimer’s it’s important to not shift topics too quickly, it’s important to talk slowly and use common words,” said Dr. Brinkman.

Dr. Brinkman also suggests that all patients, or those suspecting they or their loved one might have Alzheimer’s, to reach out to their doctor or the Alzheimer’s Association of Abilene for support and resources.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Abilene will be hosting a free education workshop Wednesday, June 26 at 3 p.m. at its office at 301 S Pioneer Drive in Abilene.

RSVPs are encouraged but not required. Contact 325-672-2907 for more information or email Mindy Bannister at mbannister@alz.org.

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