Dementia is a huge problem for those who suffer from it, their families and for medical professionals searching for treatments or a cure. There are various forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies, normal pressure hydrocephalous, and Parkinson’s disease with dementia and each of them present slightly differently. Alzheimer’s is the most common accounting for about 70% of dementia patients. In the United States there are currently about 5 million people diagnosed with some form of dementia and likely many more who are undiagnosed.
It’s difficult for those who do not have the disease to understand what it’s like for those that do. To that end, the British organization Alzheimer’s Research UK has released an app available on Android phones that simulates how a dementia patient experiences their environment. They hope that if healthy individuals use the app, a greater understanding of the struggles faced by those with the disease will be the result.
The app is called “A Walk Through Dementia” and it uses a combination of 360 degree video and virtual reality technology to recreate an every day environment. The scenes walk the viewer through a number of chapters that cover normal daily activities, such as getting dressed or going shopping, through the perspective of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It was created with help from the University College of London’s Dementia Research Centre and those who have used it have come away with a new understanding of how life is for a person who has cognitive decline and other symptoms related to dementia.
Different chapters in the app show the struggles and mishaps that can happen. In one scene a woman is trying to make a cup of tea before her daughter comes to visit. As she tries to accomplish what is normally a simple task, she struggles to remember what a tea bag looks like, where the milk and sugar are kept in her own home and how to pour hot water into the cups. While making a cup of tea is something thousands of people do every day, for a patient with Alzheimer’s it can be become an almost impossible task.
Another scene shows how easily a person with memory issues can become lost even on a familiar route and accompanied by a family member. The app works best on Google Cardboard but viewers can log into YouTube and see it on a 360 video as well. Alzheimer’s UK hopes the app will raise awareness for the difficulties faced by those with dementia and especially the frustration their families can feel when others do not understand the burden the carry in caring for their loved ones. The video below shows some of the app, take a look.
Sources: A Walk Through Dementi
Alzheimer’s Research UK