Dementia Simulation Lab Puts Learner in the Role as Patient
Valley City State University — “Wearing yellowed goggles and bumpy gloves, Danae Knapper tries to complete five household tasks, but she can’t remember the fifth one.
Confused, the 21-year-old Valley City State University junior wanders around the bedroom of an apartment on the first floor of McCoy Hall trying to remember what it was. “Oh man, I know I was supposed to do some other stuff,” she says after stuffing a pillow into a blue pillowcase. Knapper is one of about 40 students who have participated in Katie Woehl’s dementia simulation lab as part of the professor’s 300-level abnormal psychology class. A geriatric specialist developed the lab, called the Virtual Dementia Tour and distributed by nonprofit Second Wind Dreams, to give people an idea of what it’s like to live with the disease and other symptoms common in older patients.
The goggles imitate yellowing of the eyes and macular degeneration; the gloves mimic tingling and numbness in the hands. An iPod plays a continual “confusion track” that sounds like an out-of-tune talk-radio station. Shoe inserts simulate nerve pain, corns and bunions.
The experience made Knapper, a transfer student and human services major, think of her great-grandmother with dementia. “I wish I would’ve done this three years ago, when she couldn’t figure out what you were saying or she couldn’t remember what you just said. It would have probably given me a little more patience with her,” she said. “It kind of gave me a new perspective on what they experience every day, and we only did it for 10 minutes,” said a social science education major.
Although everyone handles the experience differently, Woehl’s students tend to exhibit similar behaviors. They talk to themselves, laugh nervously, wander around and complete tasks they weren’t asked to do.”