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Manteca Care provides glimpse into world of dementia

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Manteca Care provides glimpse into world of dementia

Tanya Pilcher, front, gets her headset adjusted while trying to do simple tasks as Marchelle Smith, back, does the same thing during Thursday’s virtual dementia tour.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED June 9, 2012 2:10 a.m.

A real-life glimpse into the world of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia isn’t an easy thing to stomach.

And Thursday afternoon a handful of Manteca Care and Rehab staffers and community members got a chance to see exactly what it’s like to lose the senses and the cognitive memory so many people take for granted.

Judy Swisher – who runs the business office at the facility – pulled a pair of foggy yellow goggles over her eyes, a pair of gardening gloves with a popsicle stick that took away the use of the index finger of her hand and placed a pair of spiky, uncomfortable insoles into her shoes and tried to listen to the instructions with multiple conversations being piped into the headset that she wore over her ears.

When she tried to complete five different tasks without the use of her basic senses, Swisher struggled – giving the daughter of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted father a newfound understanding of what it was he was dealing with.

“It’s hard for me not to get emotional right now,” she said. “I’d say that the experience was awakening. I wish I had an experience like this before so I could have had known what it was that was truly going on.

“I believe that everybody should go through this – almost everyone will end up knowing somebody that has Alzheimer’s or dementia and this will change their outlook – it definitely changed mine.”

Thursday’s hands-on tour was the second that Right at Home – an in-home care specialty corporation – has conducted at Manteca Care in the last month.

By putting staffers through the brief but intense session, Senior Community Liaison Susan Riner believes that it provides a unique look at what they’re actually dealing with on a daily basis.

They might not be walking a mile in the patient’s shoes, but they’re certainly feeling what it’s like.

“By doing this people learn how to interact and that helps to cut down on the frustration and the anxiety with the people affected with the illnesses,” she said. “It really helps the family members understand, and I believe the staff ends up with a lot more compassion after they go through this.

“I’ve watched some of them cry because they didn’t realize what the customer was feeling. We even had a cook come through that broke down in tears because they didn’t understand. It’s a truly enlightening experience.”

Edna Hayden was just hoping to gain a little bit of insight.

Her ex-husband – the father of her daughter – was diagnosed with dementia and is getting worse and she hoped to take advantage of the unique experience that left her looking at the situation from a completely different perspective.

It’s an experience she’ll never forget.

“After doing this it gives me a lot more compassion – I’m not as willing to just slough it off,” she said. “It makes me want to do more for other people. I could see where they could use more volunteers with the number of people that are affected by this.”

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