I was recently at a nursing home to do a dementia training. As I walked down a hallway, I passed a woman in a wheelchair. Her wheelchair was being pushed by an employee. The employee seemed to have a sense of urgency and the speed at which she was pushing the wheelchair seemed excessive.
“Wow, you’re really moving,” I said.
“I don’t know where I am going but I am really going there, aren’t I?” she said. I laughed.
“Sounds like my life lately,” I said, without much thought.
On the way home, I thought more about her comment, and I realized that it really was a pretty accurate representative of my work life.
Creating the dementia simulation house has been quite a journey. It was never my goal to have a dementia simulation house. In fact, the possibility that we could have a dementia simulation house had never crossed my mind. I was working with my very supportive dean and department head to find a space that would be appropriate for dementia simulation.
And then someone said, “What about this house?”
It’s not on campus, but it’s owned by the university. It’s been married student housing. It’s been a rental. It’s hosted its share of house parties.
(It is not uncommon for someone to come to do the simulation, step into the house, and say, “Oh, I’ve been to a party here.”)
I fell in love with this very ordinary house.
So we had a dementia simulation house. I didn’t know where this house would take us, but I was excited for the journey.
I had no idea if anyone would be interested in coming. I set up an online booking system. And people booked. And more people booked. And then people complained that we were full and they couldn’t book.
My amazing team fell into place. I didn’t seek them out. They just kinda showed up. And they are absolutely the best.
My original teammate on this project was Megan Zimmerman, the Dementia Friendly Iowa Coordinator. Then Dr. Eran Hanke, a professor in the mental health counseling program, stepped forward and took an interest in the project. Both of them brought skills and knowledge that I didn’t have.
We have two student interns. They are both Gerontology majors. I remember telling one of them, “I feel like you’re my right hand,” because of how much I depend on them. Then in July I crashed my bike and broke my right arm. So that became literally true. (I am still in a sling for another week or two.)
Working with these women has been incredibly rewarding and really fun. We laugh a lot. Interesting things happen at the house….and we improv our way through them.
Somehow, we were in USA Today, the BCC, and MSN.
This is not what I planned. I just thought it would be cool to do some dementia simulations, and this amazing environment and team showed up to make this the incredible journey it has been.
We don’t know where we are going but we are really going there, aren’t we?