Melville Elder Law Firm Takes Dementia Tour To Empathize With Clients

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Melissa Negrin-Wiener, right, partner at GDGC, is equipped with devices that stimulate certain aspects of dementia and aging during a virtual dementia tour that was hosted at the law firm on Feb. 12. Jennifer Cona, left, is managing partner at GDGC.

Melissa Negrin-Wiener, right, partner at GDGC, is equipped with devices that stimulate certain aspects of dementia and aging during a virtual dementia tour that was hosted at the law firm on Feb. 12. Jennifer Cona, left, is managing partner at GDGC.

Attorneys and staff at Melville-based elder law and estate planning firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona participated in a virtual dementia tour last week in an effort to gain a greater understanding of what some of their clients deal with on a daily basis.

“It’s really important for us that our staff gives our clients the best possible experience when they come in here. So we thought it would be really important for our staff members to understand, and be sensitive to, what people are going through when we’re working with them,” Melissa Negrin-Wiener, Esq., GDGC partner, said.

Running the tour was Laura Giunta, director of community outreach at the Garden City branch of Senior Helpers, who is also a certified senior advisor and is certified to perform the virtual dementia tour as a facilitator through Second Wind Dreams, the Georgia-based nonprofit that offers produces the tour.

It “allows someone a window into what it feels like to have regular age impairments, along with dementia, such as macular degeneration, arthritis, neuropathy and confusion, while trying to carry out simple tasks,” Giunta, who has performed the sensitivity training for two years, said. It allows “people to experience what it feels like to do those tasks with the impairment.”

For the tour, 18 GDGC staff members ranging in age from 35-62 were given simple tasks to complete in two minutes while equipped with devices that stimulate certain aspects of dementia and aging.

Wearing large eyeglasses to simulate macular degeneration, gloves and taped fingers to simulate arthritis, orthotics to simulate neuropathy and headphones with noise and typical surrounding sounds to aid in confusion, the staff performed tasks like putting on a sweater, turning on a light and folding towels.

Negrin-Wiener said the orthotics had points on them that gave her a pins and needle feeling; the gloves interfered with fine motor skills; the glasses cut off her peripheral vision completely; and the headphones made it difficult for her to process sound.

During the process, Giunta would say things like, “Hurry up” and, “We have to go.”

Negrin-Wiener said this made her “realize that you may do these things sometimes when you’re dealing with somebody who is suffering from these different types of ailments and that they really can’t hurry up. They need to focus on one thing at a time. She teaches you how to communicate with somebody who’s dealing with these obstacles.”

Giunta usually provides the services at assisted livings or rehab facilities, making GDGC the first law firm to participate in the training.

“Typically in the business world, no one’s getting training, no one’s understanding how they should be communicating and what they need to know about the disease,” Giunta said. “Nurses need to know, they take the training. Social workers take the training. But it’s very rare that somebody outside the box is really taking this time to say, ‘We need to know because we’re dealing with it.’ It was very proactive and forward thinking of GDGC.”

Negrin-Wiener said the tour was “eye opening” for the GDGC attorneys and staff.

She said, “We’re all in different stages of our lives dealing with our loved ones and things like that, but every day we’re all dealing with seniors with our clients. So I think it gave us all a better understanding of what they might be going through.”