Dementia tour set at Highland

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 13, 2014

People may often wonder what it is like to lose memories and become unfamiliar with people and places.

For those suffering from dementia, the world can be a difficult and almost frightening place to live.

However, it is difficult for caregivers and loved ones to understand exactly what life is like for those suffering from dementia.

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In October, people will have the chance to virtually experience symptoms and challenges dementia patients face.

Highland Community Hospital and the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health’s Division of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia are teaming up for the second year to offer the Virtual Dementia Tour, a hospital press release stated.

According to the release, VDT was created by Second Wind Dreams to raise awareness for caregivers of those with dementia. The VDT is dementia simulator that enables participants to experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges people with dementia and Alzheimer’s deal with.

Mary McKinley is a licensed social worker at Highland Community Hospital and said it is important for caregivers and the general public to understand what it is like for the patient.

“Dementia patients do not just suffer from memory loss,” McKinley said. “They are also subject to difficulties with sensory deprivation, hearing, eye sight, arthritis and neuropathy.”

Highland social worker Chess Johnson said that the tour is very powerful.

Melora Jackson, MS, CMHT, with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s Division of Alzheimer’s and other mental illnesses will present an informational session about dementia before the virtual tour, Johnson said.

“Participants will be placed in garb,” Johnson said. “Hearing and sight will be altered and neuropathy will be simulated in the feet and hands.”

Johnson said participants will then be given various everyday tasks to complete while in the simulated environment.

“We still don’t have a true idea of what dementia is really is,” Johnson said.

McKinley said that unless caregivers understand all the stressors, they cannot really understand how to relate to dementia patients.

“It helps for dementia sufferers to be able to live in an environment on their capability levels,” McKinley said. “This tour aides caregivers in understanding a patient’s limits and what assistance to offer.”

The sessions will be offered on October 9 at no cost to the public.

There will be four sessions:

  • 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information about VDT and registration contact Johnson at 601-358-9442 and McKinley at 601-358-9444.

Visit the VDT website at