Last week, a mobile unit with the sign, “Virtual Alzheimer’s,” was parked in front of my gym. They said that I would learn, “just what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s”. Heck, I had a few minutes. I removed my shoes so that they could slip inserts under my feet to simulate, “neuropathy.” Gloves were put on my hands to help me ‘lose touch’ with my environment. Blacked-out glasses, intended to approximate sight loss were next. Finally, headphones with constant, static and irritating background noise were placed over my ears.
I was helped up the steps of the trailer. I needed it. Negotiating both depth and distance was difficult. Once inside, I was read a list of 7 tasks that I was to accomplish in the next 10 minutes. Then I was left alone in the dark. I remembered that I was to set a breakfast table for two. Found the table but took forever to locate dishes. I also was to “find the money and count 19 cents in change.” Never found it. At some point I stumbled onto a basket of laundry and though I did not remember it was on the list, actually folded it!
By the end, I had only managed 2 of the 7 tasks. Now here’s the thing. I did not find it anything like REAL Alzheimer’s. For one thing, being of sound and very focused mind, I was able to completely block out the background noise. Also, who in their right mind would ever give an Alzheimer’s patient SEVEN tasks to complete in 10 minutes?
Alzheimer’s is much like simple Aging; it creeps up on you one day, and one failing neuron at a time. Quite honestly, that is part of its’ beauty. Kafka’s Metamorphosis aside, try imagine going to bed as a vibrant 20 something and waking up at 80? Yikes! That’s the stuff of horror shows. I’m used to my 60-something face. Why? Because I first had the chance to get used to all my 50-something ones. Suddenly plunging a clear thinking, younger person into this kind of scenario is more likely to create anxiety than anything else. I can attest to that as my teenager took the test, too. For the record, she scored no better than I did. She says it was because she “couldn’t block out the background noise.”
Here’s what I think about ‘virtual’ anything. It’s like kissing–without your lips. But if this baby rolls into your town give it a shot. Never know what you might run into. 🙂