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Hospital offers dementia tour

Published:   |   Updated: September 21, 2013 at 06:16 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - As a caregiver, Cindy Lyman knows the kinds of challenges dementia patients face.

On Saturday, Lyman actually got to experience how her mother feels first-hand as she goes about her day.

Brooksville Regional Hospital hosted an open house on Saturday, inviting anyone interested to take part in a dementia tour that helps participants physically and emotionally relate to people living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

With goggles to blur vision and earphones blaring static and other ambient noises, Lyman and other tour participants were given five tasks to complete in 10 minutes.

Bernadette Homan, business development specialist from Arden Courts Memory Care Communities of Largo & Seminole, said the brief glimpse into a dementia patient's world is enough to change a person's behavior during the brief experiment. Some become territorial, Homan said, while others soothe themselves by humming, or just shut down and refuse to complete the tasks.

"I didn't realize they went through some of these things," Lyman said. "She's hearing different sounds than I'm hearing."

Lyman said she has changed her whole life to care from her mother, rearranging her home to match her mother's previous floor plan, watching the television shows her mother is accustomed to and listening to stories that often turn out not to be true. Lyman said she used to get frustrated at her mother's behavior, but after a glimpse into the world of dementia, she said she feels sorry for not understanding.

Lyman went to the event with her sister, Debbie Patrizi, and afterward called her two other sisters and told them to come to Brooksville Regional.

"Do you think this is what Mom really goes through?" asked Donna Allison, Lyman's sister, as she paced around a hospital room, trying to remember what task she was supposed to complete. "This is crazy."

Earlier this month, Brooksville Regional started a six-month pilot program that identifies patients at risk for dementia during their initial assessment and places a purple angel sticker on the patients' wristbands and outside their doors, to make staff better aware of their needs. Dr. Gary Williams said the program allows hospital staff to improve patients' stays, decreases confusion and leads to a better stay overall.

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