I am excited, grateful, and a little bit stressed.
We are starting a dementia simulation house at the University of Northern.
Every once in a while, you dream about something, and the reality is better than your dream.
For a while, I have mentioned my interest in doing dementia simulation to our Dean (who, by the way, is wonderful). We’ve talked about other spaces–conference rooms, offices that aren’t used, etc.
It was my dream that I would get a dorm room. I’d set it up like a studio apartment. If I was lucky, I could get the room next door to do debriefing after the simulation.
And..somehow…I got a house. A whole house.
It’s been a rental. It’s held some parties. It’s seen some stuff. (My mother-in-law and husband scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen floors today. I have spent a significant amount of the past few weeks shampooing carpet.)
And, now, this the dementia simulation house.
I brought one of our Gerontology alums, Megan Zimmerman, in on the project. She’s a leader for the dementia friendly movement in Iowa. Partnering with her was the best decision I could have made.
Our first task was to furnish the house. When I got the key, we had a couch, an ottoman, and an aqua-colored dresser some renter left in a corner of the basement. I put a call out for just about everything you generally have in a house. A bed. A kitchen table. A vacuum. Bookshelves. A coat rack. Lamps. Blankets. Bedding. A desk. Chairs.
I designated “drop-off hours” and waited at the house–wondering if anyone would actually respond to my email and bring stuff.
Yep. They did. My friends, my colleagues at the university, and my community came through. Big time. I was humbled by their kindness and generosity.
Several people donated the furniture of a parent who passed away and had dementia. Others brought the furniture of someone with dementia who had recently moved to a nursing home. It would be an understatement to say I was touched.
Our soft opening is Tuesday. We have some stuff to figure out (like parking), but we are excited.
We want to help people understand what dementia is. It’s not just memory loss. This isn’t about old people forgetting the names of their grandchildren. It’s much more.
We hope to give our participants a sense of how dementia impacts your interaction with your environment. We want them to realize that the dementia brain has to work harder to do seemingly simple tasks. We hope that they leave with a bit more understanding of what life with dementia might be like.
Despite everything in the world, I think people are good. I think people want to help others. Sometimes they just don’t know how. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. So they step away.
We want them to have the confidence to step toward people with dementia.
You know those moments where you look around and think...I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now….
That’s where I’m at.