Into D’mentia Simulation Aims to Improve Dementia Care Globally
By: Dylan Sheldon, Intern AARP International
Publish Date: November
The World Health Organization estimates that a new case of dementia is diagnosed somewhere in the world every 4 seconds. The increasing number of people with dementia is expected to strain national health care budgets and will force countries to think creatively about how to address the problems posed by the disease. Continued research will be necessary, but effectively caring for those who are already affected by dementia is also crucial.
This presents a challenge, as the cognitive deterioration caused by dementia can make caregiving difficult. Dementia caregivers often have difficulty understanding what their patients experience, which adds to caregivers’ work stress. An innovative project in the Netherlands may provide a solution. A team from Minase Consulting has created Into D’mentia, a unique interactive simulation of what it’s like to have dementia. Launched in 2012, Into D’mentia was the result of a collaborative effort by a consortium of universities, health institutions, and companies. Into D’mentia helps foster better relationships between caregivers and people who suffer from dementia by allowing people to experience the challenges of living with the disease. Jan Rietsema, project director, says he hopes to see “a higher quality of care that is less taxing for the carer.”
The Into D’mentia experience is centered on a simulation. After an introduction, participants step into a mobile trailer designed to resemble a home kitchen. As participants move about the kitchen, audio and visual technology— including some of the latest developments from the world of gaming—simulate the kinds of difficulties someone with dementia might have. Throughout the simulation, participants wear a vest equipped with speakers. The vest emits a recording that is meant to serve as the participants’ “inner voice.” This narration guides the participants through a series of everyday tasks. In one instance, the participant is asked to turn on a radio, but the prop radio initially fails to work despite the participant’s best efforts. Suddenly, it begins blasting out loud music. A video projected on one wall of the kitchen shows a woman chastising the participant for startling her with the radio. After the simulation, participants are debriefed and meet again later as a group to discuss what they experienced. Many of the people who have gone through Into D’mentia expressed feeling powerful emotions and said that it would affect the way they provide care. By re-creating both the cognitive and psychosocial effects of dementia, users of Into D’mentia are able to experience the different emotions and feelings of someone with the disease—including confusion, anxiety, alienation, fear, aggression, and insecurity. The simulation isn’t only for caregivers; it is also meant to raise awareness among anyone who comes in contact with people suffering from dementia, such as police officers, bank employees, and shopkeepers. By helping people gain a greater knowledge of dementia, the designers of Into D’mentia hope to facilitate the development of dementia-friendly communities and influence the design of products and services in all areas of life. That might sound like an ambitious goal, but the scale of the problem demands nothing less. With the number of individuals living with dementia globally expected to triple by 2050— from 36 million to more than 100 million people—societies will have to adapt. Technology has previously been used to allow people to relate to individuals with impairments when it would otherwise be difficult. For example, the aging suit “AGNES” designed by the MIT Age Lab allows wearers to experience the physical restrictions that aging can cause. Into D’mentia represents the latest development in this field: a unique experience with the potential to provide a new dimension of understanding.