It can be challenging to know how to be supportive of someone without knowing what they’re experiencing or feeling. This includes people who have received a dementia diagnosis – and those who love them.
Have you ever heard the expression: “Walk a mile in my shoes”? It is used to increase the understanding of what someone is going through, so compassion and empathy can be developed for them – without judgment of them.
It Can be Difficult to Walk in Their Shoes
It can be difficult to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of some, especially those with certain diagnoses. This includes those who have been diagnosed with dementia. The person with the diagnosis no longer remembers how to do things they’ve done throughout their lives and may continuously repeat questions, words, actions, and motions. What seems logical to others might not be logical to those diagnosed. How can these symptoms be understood by loved ones and caregivers?
This is why virtual dementia tours have been – and continue to be – developed. By raising awareness and understanding of what the person with the diagnosis is experiencing, others can meet that person where they are in the moment.
Following her experience with a virtual dementia tour, Oasis Senior Living Advisor Emily Blackburn explained: “It was beneficial because I never realized that several conversations/noises are going on in their head at one time. Also, learning about the dexterity of their fingers and that constant feeling of walking on pins & needles. There was just so much that opened my eyes about what individuals with dementia go through. I’m glad this course was offered to allow me to learn more.”
This is the reason companies, including Second Wind Dreams and The Option Group, developed virtual dementia tours. According to Second Wind Dreams, the tour is: “A window into the world of dementia through evidence-based dementia simulation training that simulates the physical and mental challenges of dementia patients.”
These companies developed a way for those without the diagnosis to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of someone living with the challenges of dementia.
It’s Important to ‘Walk a Mile’ in Their Shoes
There are multiple benefits of ‘walking a mile’ in the shoes of someone who has symptoms of – or has been diagnosed with – a disease such as dementia. One benefit is developing an understanding of what they’re experiencing as they go through their day. This makes it easier to engage with them in their coherent moments – and support them during their challenging moments.
Participating in an activity such as a Virtual Dementia Tour provides insights into the challenges caregivers navigate each day. This understanding can also lead to seeking opportunities to be supportive of their caregiver. For caregivers, it can also provide additional insight and support on how to address certain situations and daily activities.
Another benefit is being aware of symptoms someone is experiencing – who may not have been diagnosed. It’s sometimes easier for others to see what the person with the symptoms doesn’t recognize – or doesn’t want to acknowledge – and what their loved one either doesn’t want to recognize – or is so close to – they can’t recognize.
Walking a Mile in Their Shoes
Sue Ryan has been a non-professional caregiver for family and loved ones for nearly forty years. Her journeys have included her grandmother, father, and husband. Having been a caregiver for the better portion of her life, Sue was asked to participate in a virtual dementia tour.
She shared, “I immediately said yes. How exciting to finally know what my care receiver goes through. It’s exciting to realize I’ll now improve my ability to care for my husband and improve the quality of his journey!”
Sue participated in the tour without clues about what she was about to experience. She explained her time during the tour, “My logical mind was trying to make sense of the experience, and nothing was making sense.”
Following her virtual tour, Sue’s first words were, “I had no idea this was what their world was like.” She went on to say, “I nearly burst into tears. First, my lack of understanding of what my husband was going through made me feel like I had been letting him down. Next, I realized I’d just ‘walked a mile’ in his shoes and would be better able to support him in the future.”
What Changes in that ‘mile’
Virtual dementia tours change peoples’ perspectives of what those with a diagnosis are navigating each day. They help people develop a deep respect for how hard the minds and bodies of those with diagnoses have to work – just to keep up.
According to Leeza Gibbons, the Emmy Award-winning actress, producer, reporter, and non-professional caregiver for her mom Jean, “My mom struggled with dementia for 12 years, but it wasn’t until I spent 8 minutes inside the Virtual Dementia Tour that I truly understood what her world was like.”
Taking the tour makes it absolutely clear that an important way to support someone with a diagnosis of dementia is to meet them exactly where they are at the moment. The way to do this is through massive acceptance and radical presence.
By accepting them exactly where they are in the moment and observing them without judgment, wise choices can be made during times of challenge, the tiniest of beautiful moments can be celebrated, and ways to support caregivers can be identified.
Are you interested in learning more about the virtual dementia tour near you? Contact your local Oasis Senior Advisor today at (888) 455-5838.