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A Glimpse into a Day in the Life of Living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

May 25, 2022
University of Northern Iowa’s dementia simulator making strides in increasing awareness and empathy

With more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the fight to prevent and find a cure has continued to take shape in unique and innovating ways. The University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) gerontology program is spearheading the crusade through a compelling approach… simulation.

Positioned on the north side of the UNI campus is a small, seemingly commonplace house that assembles an educational experience on how Alzheimer’s and dementia affects everyday life. In conjunction with the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging, UNI brings this “dementia simulation” house to the community allowing participants to navigate daily tasks from the perspective of one living with dementia.

"What we're trying to do is educate people in the community, so that when people with dementia seek out their services, they're a little bit more understanding," said Elaine Eshbaugh, a professor of gerontology at UNI in an interview with the Des Moines Register. "Our goal really is to keep people with dementia in the community just a little bit longer."

While the specific details of what happens inside the house are kept confidential, it starts with participants putting on gloves, headphones and goggles which cause disorientation and altered senses. Each session lasts approximately 45 minutes, and at the end the participants are asked to capture their experience in a word or phrase. Common responses include “noise,” “sense of loss,” “worried,” “dumb,” “overwhelming,” “slow” and “crazy.”

The empathy these participants acquire through this experience is key to establishing a broader sense of awareness on how these diseases impact those affected and how caregivers and providers can help communicate with them and improve their quality of life.

The initiatives and research extended by this program closely align with the LCS Foundation’s mission which includes local, state, and national initiatives to support care, advance research, and work toward celebrating the cure for Alzheimer’s.

Read more about UNI’s dementia simulation house and the ambition behind the team’s efforts to educate and advance community awareness.

In addition, in 2022 the LCS Foundation established a strong partnership with UNI to support the continued education of students pursuing degrees in the senior living industry, and recently announced Olivia Clark as the recipient of the 2022 LCS Foundation University Scholarship. Clark was selected by the UNI School of Applied Human Services scholarship committee and is the first recipient of this annual scholarship at UNI. 

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