“Simulation House” Lets Iowans Experience What It’s Like to Live with Dementia

Simulation House Lets Iowans Experience What It's Liketo Live with Dementia

The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging have teamed up to create a dementia simulation house to educate people on what it’s like to live with dementia.

Elaine Eshbaugh, a professor of gerontology at UNI, established the dementia simulation house, based on an idea she’s been wanting to bring to the university for years.

“My initial dream was to get two dorm rooms where we could do a simulation in one and a kind of debriefing in the other,” Eshbaugh said in an April 19 UNI article. “I thought that was the best I could do, and I would have been really excited with that. But, for me, the problem is that it kind of implies people with dementia live in just a room like in a hospital or a nursing home.”

Since opening in February, the simulation house has brought in nearly 40 people each week to experience what it’s like to live like a person diagnosed with dementia. Participants put on gloves, headphones, and goggles, which cause them to feel disoriented and mimics the feeling of having their senses altered. At the end of the simulation, which takes about 45 minutes, each participant is asked to capture the experience using a word or phrase on a piece of wood that shaped like a brain.

Megan Zimmerman of the Northeast Iowa Agency on Aging said that having people understand what it’s like to live with dementia can increase empathy and can impact the quality of life for persons diagnosed.

“People with dementia are directly and negatively impacted when people around them don’t understand dementia,” Zimmerman explained. “When you make sure that people understand dementia a little bit more and just some basics of how to communicate with someone with dementia, it really improves the quality of life for people with dementia.”

Read the full University of Iowa article here.

Photo Credit: The University of Northern Iowa 

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