Fostering Geriatric Sensitivity through Age Simulation

By Kati Stacy

Miranda Kessler, RN-BSN, is the Health Occupations Instructor at Nicholas County Career and Technical Center in West Virginia where she teaches 11th and 12th grade students. The program includes health science courses with the goal of the students obtaining their West Virginia State Nursing Assistant Certification at the end of the two-year program.

“We are in a very poor county with approximately 1000 students in grades 10-12,” said Kessler. “We have seven feeder schools from three counties. Our area is very poor and jobs are incredibly limited. Some students will leave to go to college, but statistics show that the majority of our students won’t leave. It is so important that we reach these students and teach them a skill that can be used to take care of themselves and their families.”

When looking for a product to begin teaching geriatric sensitivity, Kessler chose the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks because she felt the included components were a great value for the money. Designed for secondary and post-secondary education programs, the Geriatric Simulator allows users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges.

“When I told my principal about the simulator after seeing literature on it at a conference and he saw how excited I was to use and implement it into my program, he bought in immediately and ordered it for me with no hesitation,” she said. “When the simulator came, he was so excited about it, he was actually the first person to try it! He was amazed by how it changed his normal routine activities and made everything feel much
more physically demanding.”

Kessler thought her students could really get good use out of the Geriatric Simulator and learn from the experience of wearing it.

“I wanted to be able to teach my students to be more understanding and empathetic with the aging process once we made it into our clinical rotation at the local nursing home,” reflected Kessler. “I wanted them to understand why the residents moved so slowly and I wanted them to learn to be patient and kind while working with them.”

Students in Kessler’s class are introduced to the Geriatric Simulator during their unit on growth and development and the aging process. During note taking time, they dress in the suit, which includes a weight vest (adjustable, one-size-fits-most), ankle weights, wrist weights. elbow restraints, knee restraints, gloves and a cervical collar. They also wear the glasses to impair their vision while note taking to see how it inhibits them.

“Initially, the reaction is, “This can’t be that bad,” or they laugh and giggle while gettingdressed in the simulator,” said Kessler. “After wearing the suit for the recommended 20-30 minutes though, their feelings generally start to change.”

Kessler said she sees the students becoming tired and their actions becoming slower and more purposeful throughout that time.

“Many of the students say that they didn’t realize it would be so fatiguing,” she said. “I’ve never had a student complain after wearing the simulator though; I’ve always only had positive comments.”

“After wearing the suit,” Kessler continued, “I try to have a one-on-one conversation with each student and discuss the experience. How did you feel before and after? How did your body respond? How did your breathing change? What did you find most challenging? What did you do in an attempt to compensate for your deficits?”

Kessler currently has one Geriatric Simulator that her classes have been using since September, but she said if her enrollment continues to grow she may look into purchasing another if funding becomes available. She is also looking into adding Realityworks’ new Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit to her program through a grant she is writing. The kit features wearable components which provide users with age-related sensory changes to help with understanding common aging changes including: hearing impairment, geriatric arthritis and geriatric tremor.

“It is so important to get these kids to understand the pains and aches that our elderly generation feel every day, so that they can provide better care for our aging population,” reflected Kessler. “Even more than the physical aspect of aging, the mental and emotional status must be considered. These students can learn so much from the generation that we are now caring for – they can gain valuable life experience if they just slow down and listen and most importantly, respect the geriatric population.”

Realityworks’ age simulation suit wins caregiver award

By Janelle Krause, Realityworks PR & Events Specialist

CaregiverFriendlyAward

EAU CLAIRE, Wis., August 1, 2016 –  Realityworks’ newest RealCare product, the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator sensitivity suit, has received the 2016 Today’s Caregiver™ Friendly Award by Today’s Caregiver magazine. The Caregiver Friendly Awards are designed to celebrate products, services, books and media created with the needs of caregivers in mind. This award recognizes Realityworks’ understanding of the importance of supporting caregivers and their creation of a product that not only helps caregivers do their job, but helps improve the quality of elderly patients’ lives.

student assisting with RCare logo cropped4x5

Realityworks created the Geriatric Simulator to help prepare health care workers for careers in the rapidly growing geriatric healthcare field. The Geriatric Simulator is a wearable sensitivity suit that helps educate on topics related to aging and care for the elderly by enabling users to experience age-related physical challenges. It includes curriculum that can be incorporated into secondary and post-secondary education, nursing and health occupations programs to help users prepare for geriatric health care careers and to gain an understanding of what patients could endure.

“The Geriatric Sensitivity suit helps users develop empathy toward the elderly, a trait that studies show is key for success in elder care careers,” said Timm Boettcher, President and CEO of Realityworks. “We are proud to be recognized for the assistance our product can give caregivers and educators.”

Realityworks’ award will be announced in the September/October 2016 issue of Today’s Caregiver and on the magazine’s website, caregiver.com.

Learn more

For more information on the RealCare Geriatric Simulator, we recommend these resources:

About Realityworks, Inc.
Established 19 years ago to better address teen pregnancy prevention, parenting skills, child abuse and neglect through educational products, Realityworks, Inc. is dedicated to creating experiential learning tools that engage students while improving the human condition. Most famous for their RealCare Baby infant simulator (formerly known as Baby Think it Over or BTIO), Realityworks has developed several other programs over the last decade that address career preparation areas like business management, finance and entrepreneurship, and welding with guideWELD, a live welding guidance system. With simulators in 62 percent of U.S. school districts and programs in more than 90 countries around the world, Realityworks has made a worldwide impact. For more information, visit www.realityworks.com, or call toll-free 800-830-1416.

About the Caregiver Friendly Awards
Caregiver Friendly® Awards are presented by Today’s Caregiver magazine to celebrate outstanding books, media, products and services designed with the best interest of the family caregiver in mind. Today’s Caregiver magazine, launched in 1995, is published by Caregiver Media Group, which also produces the Fearless Caregiver Conferences, www.caregiver.com and The Fearless Caregiver book, which teaches caregivers how to become their loved one’s fearless advocates within the healthcare system.