Gloves, special glasses and a headset can show people what dementia feels like.

Gail Snider, the program coordinator for Dementia Friendly Fort Worth, will lead “Dementia Live” from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at North Branch Library, 3020 N. Locust St.

“Dementia Live” is for anyone who wants to experience what it might be like to have dementia.

“’Dementia Live’ is a free simulation experience that can be used for caregivers, providers — professionals out in the community,” said Snider, who had a family member who had dementia for 12 years.

“The simulation immerses the participant in what it’s like to have dementia for 5 to 10 minutes. We give participants gloves, special glasses that change their vision, and the headset is several layers of noise to simulate the confusion to the brain that people with dementia have.”

Participants are asked to complete five tasks in a short time. Snider said the participants will try to navigate a task in an apartment or at a table. The special glasses give the effect of looking through a pair of binoculars. The immersion experience — developed in North Texas — tends to drive the point home like nothing else.

“I would more call the assignments regular daily tasks. We ask them to tie a shoe, button a shirt, count change,” she said “For the participants, because of the equipment they are wearing, they don’t always hear the instructions. Some people will just sit down and say nothing, and afterward, people will tell us they couldn’t hear or understand anything. This is something people with dementia do.”

Snider said dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses 120 different illnesses that cause such symptoms as memory loss, cognitive decline and confusion, withdrawal and depression, and loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

“Some are curable because they are related to a reaction to a medication, or an infection,” Snider said. “Then there are dementias that aren’t curable. The most common is Alzheimer’s. I think the reason people think Alzheimer’s is a different thing than dementia is because most people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. But it is a form of dementia.”

“Dementia Live” helps providers, caregivers and family members understand what their patient or loved one is going through. It can also help them adapt to the dementia sufferer as they move through everyday scenarios.

“In care settings, we’re not always in the visual sight of the person,” Snider said. “We might walk into the room and give mom an instruction. What we don’t know is that she can’t see me and doesn’t even know I’m talking to her. And doesn’t understand what you said. After an immersion, you might know that you need to walk up to the person with dementia and talk to them.”

Snider said dementia isn’t a normal part of aging.

“Vision changes are a normal part of aging,” she said. “Being slower at processing things is a normal part of aging. I can’t do as many things at once that I used to. But dementia isn’t.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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