Observing the progress of dementia is frustrating as a third party, and heartbreaking as a loved one.
But it can be difficult for someone who isn’t experiencing a decline in cognitive function first-hand to understand what dementia is really like. Extreme memory loss and mental confusion are not symptoms that are as easy for another person to understand as, say, nausea or inflammation.
With this in mind, a team at Brooklyn, New York-based digital healthcare provider Babylon Health has built an interactive puzzle that aims to show people what it is like actually to suffer from dementia.
The Understanding Dementia exercise can be accessed here, and it’s an eye-opening experience.
The application sets up a familiar game premise that one would think is a cinch to solve — but then everything you do is wrong and confusion quickly settles in. It is a disturbing sensation to realize that the rules you’ve always known no longer have any bearing.
Nothing seems to make sense — it’s like living with dementia.
As users navigate through the program, they are given insights into the fear, humiliation, anger, depression and paranoia so many people on a daily basis as a result of this cruel condition.
“A ‘guaranteed to fail’ puzzle will likely cause you to feel annoyed, angry, dismissive, paranoid, anxious, irritated, and depressed — and these are all feelings that make life harder for a person with dementia,” dementia expert June Andrews, OBE FRCN, writes on the site.
“To avoid creating those emotions for a person with dementia: Don’t ask questions if you can avoid it. Don’t correct things that don’t matter. Do everything in your power to avoid bringing to the attention of the person with dementia that they are failing a mental challenge, as this only makes their life harder than it needs to be.”
The Understanding Dementia puzzles connect the experience of dementia to those of us who haven’t suffered cognitive impairment. Armed with this newfound level of empathy, our dedication to eradicating dementia once and for all can only grow.