Dementia is one of the scariest illnesses in the world. It slowly robs you of yourself or a family member and all with seemingly little warning. Understanding mental disease can be hard too as there are often no physically presenting symptoms, just mental decline.
This disease is generally thought of as the general decline in mental ability that becomes severe enough to start interfering with daily life. This can include common memory loss, all the way to Alzheimer's disease.
Dementia is one of those diseases that is hard on family members to fully grasp as their loved one's memory of who they seem to fade. It's also hard to put yourself in someone with dementia's shoes, one of the best ways to empathize. But all that has just changed.
Researchers from Babylon Heath worked with Dementia Trust UK to develop a series of 5 puzzles that demonstrate to the mentally non-impaired what living with Dementia is like. It's frustrating and confusing.
These dementia puzzles work through 5 independent concepts, laying out the effects of the brain disease in an easy to understand way. The puzzles actually make you feel the emotions in answering the question that someone with dementia might
The Concept of the Puzzles
The puzzles seem simple at first, perhaps perfect for testing the aptitude of children. You interpret them as simple easy to follow tasks and slowly start to carry them out... but they're impossible. No matter how hard to try, or perhaps how simple you thought a task would be, you end up somewhere that confounds you.
The group of puzzles includes:
- A puzzle to make you feel stupid
- A memory game you can't win
- An image test that will make you question your ability
- A reading comprehension test that is weighted against you
- And a questionnaire that concludes like you wouldn't expect
Professor June Andrews who worked on the project said this about the puzzles,
"The humiliation arising from not being able to complete simple puzzles gives rise to anger. Do you feel like you're being set up to fail? It’s even worse if you didn’t want to be tested in the first place. It’s not surprising therefore that people avoid seeking a diagnosis, but that delay can stop them from making preparations and accessing care while time runs out."
Take some time to run through the 5 puzzles linked below to truly get a feel of what having dementia feels like.
Unpacking the Results
The first puzzle starts off with a simple task, click the letter A. However, every time you try to do this, the A moves to a location different from where you just clicked. This is meant to cause humiliation, mimicking the feelings of someone with dementia who struggles to complete seemingly simple tasks and doesn't realize why they can't do it. It's this humiliation that causes people to not seek care.
Following up this first puzzle, you're met with a simple matching puzzle like you've probably played before – except this one is impossible. This blind "find the match" puzzle causes fear that you might get the next thing wrong and also anger. For many with dementia, this fear and anger have to be bottled up as they don't even know where – or how – to turn for help.
Question 3 presents with an adorable picture of a dog asking you what the picture is of. However, when you're asked to identify what the picture is of, none of the answers are a dog. This is meant to cause you to doubt yourself. This is the doubt that Dementia patients feel every day.
That is followed up by a reading comprehension test that just doesn't give you enough time to... well, comprehend. While this test was certainly fast to an average person, this is a close representation of what someone whose mental processes would feel if given a similar task.
All of these tests aren't just meant to demonstrate the physical effects of dementia. By question 4, you should be feeling pretty frustrated that you can't get anything right. You start feeling stress.
And then comes, question 5.
The Final Test
The final part of these dementia puzzles switches up the game. Finally, it's asking you questions that you know are right and you seem to be doing well! All of that is shattered when you get to the end of the questions and are presented with an image that seems to have no relation to the line of questioning. You're left having no idea what you did wrong. Did you misunderstand the task? Did you read closely enough?
Through the use of these puzzles developed with the help of Doctor June Andrews, nearly anyone can understand just how hard Dementia is to live with.
Worldwide it's estimated that 50 million people suffer from dementia – and the numbers are growing, expected to increase to 75 million by 2030 and to triple by 2050. Roughly every 3 seconds a new person is diagnosed with the disease, according to the World Health Organization.
All of this equates to a global economic impact of 818 Billion USD spent on treatment and care for individuals with the disease each year.
Ways to Improve Dementia Treatment
Doctors promote preventative activities and lifestyle changes as the best ways to control the onset of dementia. One of the best changes you can make is learning a new language. This improves neuroplasticity in your brain and helps it adapt as you get older.
Physical changes like diet can include eating more fruits, introducing more Vitamin K to your diet, and running around 15 miles per week, according to WebMD. Doctors also recommend keeping a Mediterranean diet, as it has been proven to reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer's later in life.
Understanding dementia is also a key way to improve treatment and care for those who have the disease, a key goal of why the above puzzles were developed.