Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor

 

There’s nothing popping about kernels in one’s shoes. It’s uncomfortable. It’s irritating. It’s a simulation of what dementia patients go through daily.

Through a use of taped fingers, weights and glasses festooned with saran wrap, the McMaster’s Alzheimer’s Society, in partnership with the Hamilton-Halton Alzheimer’s Society, challenged students on March 13 to enter the mind of a dementia patient. As the first virtual dementia tour offered at McMaster, the event seeks to raise awareness surrounding the mental illness itself as well as to foster a relationship of empathy between someone afflicted with the disease and their care provider.

Brianna Smrke, Education Committee executive, was one of the co-organizers.

“We were hoping to see how the event could be adapted to engage a group of university students for which it wasn’t originally created. Our other goal was to get people to think more carefully about how they treat elders – whether they are relatives or acquaintances,” she said.

This is only partly true. Besides fostering an environment where people are more conscientious of their actions toward a patient, the tour – which was originally started by P.K Beville – also develops a feeling of empathy. With cotton in one’s ears, weights on one’s appendages and tape wrapped around one’s fingers, a participant gets a brief glimpse into the warped mind of a dementia sufferer.

Karen Robins, Public Education Coordinator for the Halton chapter of the Alzheimer society, expanded on this idea. Drawing on the mission statement of the Alzheimer society, which is to offer either counseling or education regarding Alzheimer’s, she stated that, “Knowledge is power.”

“We can be a voice, a soundboard,” Robins added, “not only for people suffering from the disease, but for their care partners as well. It is such a long journey. It is not all of a sudden. As long as people understand this is an illness that takes time, people will need consistent support.”

In the coming years, such understanding and education is only expected to increase as the disease is getting more and more notoriety. No longer is there a stigma regarding the illness. Instead, with baby boomers entering the age of grey hair and failing memory, people are becoming more aware of the diseases associated with an aging population.

Despite the success of the tour, both Robins and Smrke stressed that there is still more to be done.

“It’s a great start, “ said Smrke. “It went well, but I’m already thinking of how much better it will be the next time we run it – how many more people we’ll be able to encourage to think a little differently about aging and dementia.”

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