NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Adult Protective Services caseworkers from across East Texas have a better idea of what it's like to have dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
They participated in a Virtual Dementia Tour to better serve their clients. The experience is the closest thing to walking in the shoes of a person affected by the disease.
"So for the next few minutes you're going to see what it's like to live in the world of somebody who has Alzheimer's and dementia,' said Becky Eldridge, the president of the Advisory Board for Adult Protective Services in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties.
Adult Protective Service worker Tamika Renfro was handed props to learn dementia is more than just forgetfulness.
"These gloves will simulate what it's like to have decreased sensation," Eldridge said "We're going to tape a couple of her fingers together and it would be similar to having arthritis."
Popcorn kernels inside the gloves simulate diabetic neuropathy.
"The pins and needles feeling in your fingertips," Eldridge said.
Felt is put in shoes. Blurry goggles simulate glaucoma and macular degeneration. Poor hearing is an issue too.
"There's headphones that simulate background noise," Eldridge said.
Then Renfro was told to perform a series of tasks.
"Fill a cup half full of water and leave it on the counter," Eldridge said. Match six pairs of socks. Put on the tan sweater. Draw a picture of your family."
"Oh you're not going to tell me again?" Renfro said.
After performing just one task on the list Renfro was obviously confused. She began wandering, searching for something. But for what, no one knew.
"Yes, lost, frustrated," Renfro said.
She also said she was embarrassed because she couldn't remember.
Eventually there was a sense of defeat.
"I don't know what else to do," Renfro said.
Unlike those she will serve, Renfro left the world of dementia to discuss what she's learned.
"Was it an eye opener for you?" asked Sharon King-Roberts, a consultant social worker for Heart to Heart Hospice.
"Definitely an eye opener," Renfro said.
"It allows us to be more empathetic, and when we're dealing and working with them, it also helps us to provide the training for the families that they need when they are working with those individuals," King-Roberts said.
"I believe I had limited it to just memory issues," Renfro said.
"And now you have a better awareness," King-Roberts said.
"Definitely. Definitely," Renfro said.
A virtual dementia tour will help APS caseworkers help those with dementia cope with the world that they can never escape.
Wednesday's training was hosted at Westward Trails Nursing and Rehab in Nacogdoches. The Virtual Dementia Kits are available for families, groups and individuals through Heart to Heart Hospice and the Advisory Board for Adult Protective Services in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties.