Outfitted with props that simulate sensory overload and confusion often experienced by the aging and those with dementia, Adam Kahn, associate attorney at Cona Elder Law, elder law firm in Melville and a Rockville Centre resident, was able to experience what many of his clients face every day. "As an elder law attorney and a guardian to seniors who suffer from various physical and mental impairments, this incredible exercise really helped me understand the needs of my clients," says Adam.
Recently, 15 attorneys and staff members at Cona Elder Law went through a unique virtual dementia tour at their office enabling them to walk in their clients’ shoes. This is the first time that Laura Giunta, certified senior advisor and director of community outreach at Senior Helpers, facilitated the training at a business outside of a health care facility.
While one staff member put on the props that simulated dementia and physical limitations associated with aging, another observed and provided feedback. The props included:
Dark, clouded eyeglasses to simulate macular degeneration
Gloves to simulate arthritis and restrict motor skills
Headphones with surrounding noise
Footwear to simulate neuropathy
Then they were instructed to perform tasks that mimic everyday activities, such as:
Putting on a sweater
Writing a note
Setting a table
"I found it difficult to concentrate mostly because my feet hurt from the neuropathy simulator. I also had a hard time seeing with the macular glasses and trying to pair socks with the gloves on was near impossible," says Jennifer Cona, managing partner, Cona Elder Law. “It was eye opening to try and do simple tasks with significant limitations.”
According to Ms. Cona, “Everyone caring for an older adult with cognitive and physical limitations should have this training. As legal advisors to seniors and their families who deal with Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes and other degenerative ailments, it is important for us to truly understand what our clients are experiencing so that we can provide legal services with compassion and empathy.”
Following the activity, Ms Giunta discussed how to communicate with those suffering from these age-related limitations. Some of her tips are:
- Give one task and direction at a time
- Ask closed or narrow questions, such as “Do you want chicken for dinner?” instead of “What do you want for dinner?”
- Give visual and verbal cues, such as lifting your hand to your mouth in an eating motion while asking an individual to eat something.
Cona Elder Law is recognized as a leading elder law and estate planning firm on Long Island. The firm was ranked the #1 Elder Law firm by Long Island Business News for 4 consecutive years (2012 – 2015) and was a finalist in the 2015 HIA Business Achievement Awards. The firm provides creative advocacy and cutting edge planning strategies and has been featured in many publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, L.I. Business News, Investor’s News Daily, USA Today, The Daily News, The New York Post, Kiplinger’s, Reader's Digest and many others. Cona Elder Law attorneys have appeared as guests on WNBC-TV, WABC-TV, CNN-fn, News 12, WLNY News 55 and many radio stations including WOR, WCBS AM, WBAB and WFAN.