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A Police Officer Gets a Taste of His Grandmother’s Dementia

Captain Rob Firmes of the Murrieta, California Police Department, now has a much better understanding of the challenges experienced by his grandmother who struggles with dementia.

On May 16th, Captain Firmes along with two other officers, took Vineyard Place Memory Care up on their offer to help them experience, first hand, a taste of what it’s like to be challenged by dementia. Captain Firmes’ grandmother is a resident at Vineyard Place, and he wanted to gain a deeper appreciation of what she goes through every day.

While nothing can come close to replicating the devastation of living with dementia, Vineyard Memory Care did its best to try by providing a pretty challenging environment for the police officers. On hand to help was Jodi Cornman, Community Relations Director for Highline Place Memory Care in Littleton, Colorado. Both Highline Place and Vineyard Place are Anthem Memory Care communities. The event was also covered by the Press-Enterprise as well as local KABC/Channel 7.  

To give officers a taste of what memory care residents experience every day, each was given heavy gloves to wear to impair hand movement. They were also given special glasses that blurred their vision. Spikey inserts in their shoes emulated the foot pain of peripheral neuropathy and ear phones with a loud cacophony of sounds made it difficult to hear and understand verbal communication.

Once they were outfitted with their various devices, the officers were given instructions to conduct a variety of tasks including counting out change, setting a table and folding laundry. Needless to say, the experience was eye opening for the officers. When Officer Firmes was asked by a reporter for the Press-Enterprise how it felt, he responded “It’s disorienting. Big time!”

These virtual reality sessions are conducted Anthem Memory Care communities to give those who work with individuals with dementia, as well as families of residents, a better understanding of the challenges associated with doing things we all take for granted. They have proven to be very effective in developing a stronger appreciation for the impairments that come with this devastating disease. Along with that appreciation comes an added degree of patience and understanding, both of which are so important to the support and care of our loved ones with dementia.

Photo Credit: Frank Bellino, contributing photographer for the Press-Enterprise. (Image has been cropped to fit.)