By Michelle Colesanti

Alzheimer’s Disease is a growing epidemic and is even showing up in adults in their 50’s. As the baby boomer population ages, more people will be diagnosed with both Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the importance of learning to understand how to deal with loved ones who are affected becomes more crucial.

The Bridges Retirement Community recently teamed up with Florida Home Health Care Services to give loved ones and Bridges’ staff members the unique opportunity to learn what life is like on a daily basis for someone suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

This individual hands-on experience helped family members who are caring for their loved ones at home, caregivers and professionals get first-hand insight into the disabilities, fears and concerns that those suffering with these diseases deal with.

The Virtual Dementia Tour covered most of the senses that are compromised in some way when dealing with these diseases. Dementia and Alzheimer patients usually have other aging disabilities too, so although not all senses may be compromised, there are usually some.

Those participating were given a list of some normal daily activities and were told to follow through and complete the tasks. With impaired hearing and eyesight and also loss of sensory feeling in the hands, an appreciation of the hardships suffered became apparent quickly, along with a new understanding of why certain behaviors take place.

The purpose of this Virtual Tour is to help those caring for loved ones at home to learn to identify hazards and to understand the behaviors which will help them deal better with the situation.

An open forum followed the tour, where questions were asked to professional Katarina Rawdan about caring for loved ones. She helped Valrico resident Millie Nyquist and others understand that sometimes cargivers have to find the trigger points that sometimes set off episodes of negative behaviors. Nyquist is caregiver for her 97-year-old father-in-law, Roy Nyquist, currently a Bridges resident. Rawdan said the caregiver is the most important and most difficult job. “(Those suffering) are still adults. Don’t speak to them in a condescending nature. Treat them like adults because that is what they are,” she said.

The Bridges is located at 11202 Dewhurst Dr. in Riverview. For more information, visit www.secondwind.org/virtual-dementia-tour/.