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Wilmington, NC – Lower Cape Fear Hospice’s Compassionate Lab Simulation Experience offers family, friends and caregivers a chance to experience the symptoms their loved ones or patients are experiencing, thanks to a grant from the Landfall Foundation. Utilizing special props, the program lets participates experience the effects of symptoms of conditions like neuropathy or stroke, as well as other conditions, like cataracts, which are common as people age.
The compassionate lab is portable and can travel to other locations, said Kelly Cahill, Community Nurse Educator for Lower Cape Fear Hospice. Cahill has incorporated the compassionate lab in continuing education courses for caregiving staff at local agencies, as well as in educational events open to family members or interested members of the public.

“One of the biggest things is to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s the aging population or those with chronic illness, and hopefully when you’re done, you’ll have more compassion and empathy,” Cahill said. “By simulating a lot of the aging process like macular degeneration, cataracts, stroke, it hopefully enhances your empathy factor.”

Specialized goggles simulate the effects of cataracts and macular degeneration. Special stomach wraps simulate ascites, or fluid buildup around the stomach, which can be caused by Congestive Heart Failure, liver disease, or certain types of cancer. Weighted wraps applied to arms and legs on one side of the body help simulate the effects of a stroke. Cahill also incorporates statistical
information about how many Americans deal with different disabilities and diagnoses, like cataracts or diabetes – and how many Americans don’t have the funds or transportation needed for surgery that could correct or help conditions, like cataracts.

“For the community, it’s an eye-opening experience,” she said. “When we do it for churches or non-clinical groups, they’re like, ‘Wow, I had no idea. So-and-so has this, and I didn’t realize the struggles she has every day.’ It really enlightens them about what their fellow community members go through. It can be a very emotional experience if you have someone close in your family.”

“It’s not just older people,” Cahill added. “For example, diabetes can occur in younger people too. We all work with people with insulin pumps, but you may never know. So when they’re fumbling to pick up a pencil, it could be peripheral neuropathy. When I go to Wal-Mart on a busy Saturday, when there’s someone in front and they’re fumbling, they can’t pick the coins up, you have to hit that pause button and say, ‘Maybe they can’t see that well. Maybe their fingers
can’t feel the coins.’ And then you see the cashier, and how impatient they’re getting because this person is holding up the line. It’s being aware or our fellow community members and some of the things they’re going through.”

The Compassionate Lab Simulation Experience is made possible by a grant from the Landfall Foundation, which funded the purchase of the specialized equipment that simulates the different symptoms and conditions.

While the simulation experience works best in groups of 8-10, larger groups can be accommodated. To book the Compassionate Lab Simulation Experience for your group, contact Cahill at kelly.cahill@lcfh.org or (910) 796-7922.
Lower Cape Fear Hospice is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the highest level of care and comfort to patients with life-limiting illness; support and counseling to families; and education to the community. For more information, visit lcfh.org.

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