Community Counseling using dementia trailer to educate students

Chelsea Brown (left) and Charlie Chastain, both sophomores who expect to graduate in May 2018, got to experience Community Counseling Services’ dementia trailer on Tuesday on the MUW campus.

November marks National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and representatives from Community Counseling Services and students from Mississippi University for Women partnered to recognize the occasion.

Community Counseling Services parked its dementia trailer on the MUW campus Tuesday and took nearly 60 nursing school students through the simulator.

Dementia is at the forefront of efforts by CCS, which operates senior day treatment therapy programs in Choctaw, Clay, Noxubee, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Webster and Winston counties.

The dementia trailer impairs sight, hearing, physical ability and coordination so students can get a better grasp on the effects of dementia and aging.

Community Counseling’s Martha Allen said prickly inserts are put in shoes to help simulate pains shooting through the legs, neuropathy, loss of balance, bad knees or a bad hip.

“Textured gloves take away hand strength and coordination, making simple daily tasks hard to accomplish,” Allen said. “Goggles impair the vision like cataracts do and the special goggles have yellow lenses since as we age our vision yellows.”

Participants also had their hearing impaired by a series of white noise and “city sounds” that help to increase the level of anxiety one feels while in the 2-minute long experiential tour.

While in the trailer, participants are also given five simple daily tasks to complete, including putting on a sweater, setting the table, pouring a glass or water, folding towels or matching socks and writing a letter before then trying to put it in an envelope.

Allen said few participants make it past the second task.

She then said CCS hopes students gain knowledge and empathy during their time in the simulator.

“Many times in our professional careers, as well as in life, it takes us experiencing something to really grasp a full understanding,” Allen said. “Our goal for the nursing students is they gain a better hands-on understanding for what the seniors in our communities may be feeling, thinking and experiencing.”