Experiencing Dementia - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Experiencing Dementia

One in three seniors dies with some form of dementia in America. Experts say it's part of a growing problem. On Tuesday, Bowie residents had the opportunity to step inside the shoes of someone suffering from dementia. It was all in an effort to raise awareness.

Life is a struggle for those suffering from any form of dementia. Every day, family members and friends serve as their primary caregivers. It's a job that can be very emotional, frustrating and stressful. But today, those caregivers had the opportunity to gain a different perspective.

Bob and Vivian Younker have that tough job to do every day. The couple cares for a family member suffering from dementia. But until now, they have never experienced what it is like to live with the illness.

“I think it changes from day to day. Every day is different than it was yesterday and it will probably be different tomorrow,” said caregiver Bob Younker.

In 2014, caregivers for seniors suffering from dementia spent roughly 18 billion hours of unpaid time caring for them. The nation equates that to around 218 billion dollars, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

A virtual tour gave the community a look at what life is like when suffering from dementia. The participants were required to wear special glasses, listen to distracting background noise, wear special gloves and use special shoe inserts. It not only simulated what life with dementia is like, but also arthritis and glaucoma.

“It was really interesting and drawing a picture and folding clothes it's like things that are everyday things that you do and it's hard for her,” said Vivian Younker.

More than five million people in the U.S. experience dementia and that number is expected increase by 40 percent in just ten years, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

 “Unfortunately, it's a growing epidemic,” said Patty Taylor with the Alzheimer's Association. “There's a lot of information and awareness we need to get out the community about this disease.”

Dementia is the only top cause of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. Health experts say there are various forms of dementia, and many are never actually diagnosed.

Alzheimer's is one of those forms, and only 45 percent of people that have it actually get diagnosed with it, according to the Alzheimer's Association website. Experts say that's why it's vital to know the signs and advocate for yourself.

There are 10 warning signs that you can look for according to the Alzheimer's Association website:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood or personality

“The sooner people are diagnosed, the earlier they can get on medication,” said Patty Taylor, with the Alzheimer's Association. “And the medications right now…there's not a lot out there but the ones we have show they're best promised when a person is diagnosed early in the disease.”

You don't have to experience all of those difficulties, in order to have a version of dementia. Experts say many seniors that hear the words dementia, don't take it as seriously as they should. Dementia is a broad term that encompasses very serious illnesses.

The Alzheimer's Association is hosting a seminar for caregivers of those suffering. The meeting is next Thursday at the First Assembly of God Church in Wichita Falls.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6

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