Living with Dementia, Alzheimer's and Learning Disabilities

On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, Sandi Erickson and Jessica Heska visited the Clare-Gladwin CTE Criminal Justice and Health Occupations students. Erickson and Heska, who work for Compassus Hospice, showed students what it’s like to live with different learning disabilities, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

CTE students went through five different simulations and activities at understood.org. The students listened to people on this website who have different types of learning disabilities. Once the video was over, the students got to see and go through what it is like to live with learning disabilities. After the students finished the simulations, they got to learn how one could help someone with these certain disabilities.

After finishing these online simulations, the Criminal Justice and Health Occupations students got to do a hands-on simulation of what it is like to live with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Students were two gloves to wear – a thick glove to wear on their dominant hand to feel what it is like to have arthritis, and a thinner glove on their non-dominant hand. Students were also given headphones that played different sounds into their ears, and glasses that blocked their peripheral vision. The glasses also decreased the range that they were able to see.

Once everything was set up, Mrs. Erickson gave the kids six tasks they had to perform. However, she was not able to repeat what she said, and the students could receive no help. With the headphones on, it became difficult to hear what tasks were given.

Criminal Justice and Health Occupation students were placed in a dark room, with the only source of light was a strobe light. The student had to remember what tasks they were given and perform them until they were taken out of the room. Yet, it was very difficult to hear the tasks given, which made it more difficult to perform them. The students often became so fixated on one task that they forgot about other tasks.

Before the students went through any of the six simulations, they were asked to complete a survey. After completing the simulations, students filled out the same survey, but using how they felt inside the simulation. The survey asked if they felt like they could perform simple tasks, or if they often found themselves searching for something.

It was an overall great experience. The students got to see what so many people go through and live with every day. A big thank you goes out to Sandi and Jessica for providing the opportunity for the students to experience this. Another big thank you to Compassus Hospice for allowing Sandi and Jessica to visit the Clare-Gladwin CTE programs. It provided the students with an amazing and eye-opening experience.