According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid caregiving services to someone living with dementia. The right dementia care includes patience and kindness, and sensitivity to what the older adult is experiencing. To provide a better understanding for caregivers of what their loved ones are going through, two 2-hour Virtual Dementia Tour sessions were held Feb. 19 at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle by Lori Fitzpatrick, Director of Community & Volunteer Engagement at Covenant Care out of Tallahassee, FL. Specialized sensory tools and instructions were used to give caregivers a hands-on virtual experience that mimics the physical and mental challenges faced by persons with dementia.

“It only lasted 4 minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime,” said Karla Dooling, event participant and current family member of a dementia resident at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle. “Your heart just broke all over again for people who have dementia. Some things are a lot more powerful than words and that experience was.”

Karla shared her personal journey with session participants, recalling how her mother, Zelle Tatum, experienced 20 years of dementia with the last 10 in dementia care at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle, then known as Wesley Manor.

Karla recounted, “When mom was sick, I remember praying, ‘God, don’t let my suffering be wasted. Let me help other people.’” Karla said that God has answered that prayer a million time over, and she was grateful to have the virtual experience. “I learned so much today. It was just incredible.”

Miki Hornsby of Donalsonville, Georgia, also attended one of the virtual tour sessions. “My great grandmother and grandmother both had dementia and they passed away from Alzheimer’s related causes, I have that experience, and then my father-in-law just recently passed away from dementia related causes.”

With her previous observations as a dementia caregiver, Miki said that she was most interested in the hands-on experience of the virtual tour. “I’ve been around it from a caregiver perspective, but to actually experience it, that’s honestly why I wanted to do the tour. I just want that experience to help me be more understanding or aware of what someone is experiencing when they have dementia.”

As a dementia and Alzheimer’s care provider in Dothan, Wesley Place on Honeysuckle is interested in educating family members and the community about dementia and its signs, symptoms and available caregiver support.

Wesley Place on Honeysuckle, a community of Methodist Homes of Alabama & Northwest Florida, is located in Dothan, Alabama. With assisted living, long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, memory care (mild to moderate dementia), and Alzheimer’s Care (moderate to severe dementia), Wesley Place on Honeysuckle offers senior adults a full spectrum of housing and care options.

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