Recorder reporter tests out age simulation suit
PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 July 2015
Trembling hands, a lack of balance and impaired vision – these are just some of the problems the elderly have to cope with every day.
To help its staff gain a better understanding of what their older patients experience, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, which runs Romford’s Queen’s Hospital, will train nurses using an age simulation suit and I was invited to test it out.
First I was handed a large pair of shoes, followed by heavy weights, which were strapped to my ankles weighing me down.
Next, with the help of clinical nurse specialist Lee Hamilton, I put on a heavy vest, resembling those worn by police officers.
Trying not to keel over with the extra weight, I slipped on gloves attached to a Tens machine which uses electrical currents to simulate a hand tremor, making simple tasks such as pouring a glass of water a lot tougher.
The final touches of the age simulation suit were earmuffs to drown out noise and glasses that imitate eye conditions such as cataracts and pigment dispersion syndrome.
Connie Hughes, matron and lead nurse for dementia at King George Hospital, in Goodmayes, said: “It’s not easy living with so many physical restraints so we feel it is important that our staff can understand what it is like and hopefully this will improve the care that our patients receive.”
Slowly making my way through the corridors at King George Hospital, I kept feeling that I was being pulled backwards and needed to walk on my heels to stop myself from falling over.
I also had to make a conscious effort to avoid any objects I could bump into because of my distorted vision.
To test just how much the age simulation was affecting my movements, I tried different activities such as answering the phone and sitting down, which were both a struggle.
My knees were tight so I found it difficult to bend my legs, the weight of the vest made me slouch as I tried to sit down and my hands continued to shake.
Throughout the experience I felt almost entirely dependent on those around me to protect me from harm.
In the hour I was wearing the suit the weight, poor vision and mumbled hearing made even the simplist of tasks difficult so it’s hard to imagine how it would be living with these problems 24-hours-a-day.
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