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'Dementia Live' Helps Better Understand Memory Loss

Ann Thompson
Holly Henderson, Dir. of Memory Care Operations at Serene Suites, simulates dementia with "Dementia Live," and finds even folding a towel is difficult.

A new assisted living facility in Blue Ash is helping people better understand memory loss with a simple simulation open to the community.

Serene Suites, set to open in March, is offering "Dementia Live" now. By putting on gloves, glasses and a headset, participants can get a better idea of what difficulties those with memory loss face.

Director of Memory Care Operations Holly Henderson says it goes beyond not being about to remember. "Very often memory disorders or impairment is just simply thought of as a recall; they don't have an accurate recall," she says. "It affects so many more skills than that. It affects mood. It affects all these other skills that you really don't hear about commonly." 

With sounds of a television and a distant radio playing in a headset, participants realize just how difficult it is to focus. The gloves make getting dressed a chore, especially having to button tiny buttons. At Serene Suites, part of the simulation is sorting white plastic silverware and putting it into a white divider. The glasses make that difficult.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Sorting silverware is one of many tasks participants in "Dementia Live" are asked to do as they simulate having memory issues.

"The gear is specifically designed to mimic the skills that leave you," Henderson explains. "The gloves are mimicking the loss of tactal ability and fine motor skills. The glasses mimic the visual changes that happen and the final, and probably the most challenging, is the headset."

When going through the simulation, some freeze, not knowing what to do. Some talk their way through the stress and others become a follower.

The list of participants is growing for this free service. Serene Suites has trained the Blue Ash Police Department. Serene Suites owner Jagdish Bhati says that's important because memory loss symptoms can mimic those of drug and alcohol intoxication.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Serene Suites, a Blue Ash assisted living facility specifically for those with memory loss, is scheduled to open in March.