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Dementia Education

 

 

The gerontological research team at George Mason University is committed to improving the lives of people living with ADRD and their caregivers. To that end, your participation in our studies help provide critical information about your lived experiences!

With all the problems across the globe in 2020, it was easy to forget about dementia. Unless your mom was becoming more and more forgetful. Or your spouse was just diagnosed. Or you weren’t able to go visit dad with all the COVID restrictions, and you worried about him even remembering you when you could visit again. While it didn’t make the daily news, dementia is still a problem.

We all associate Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with memory loss, but unfortunately it is much more than that. As we continue to recognize Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, let’s take a deeper dive. There are 4 ‘A’s to help you remember common symptoms, plus we’ll review a few more ‘A’s for good measure. Some may experience all of these symptoms in dementia, others may not, or they may see them at different times throughout the disease. But being aware of symptoms to look for will help you be an ‘A’ student – and caregiver!

With dementia, there is still a lot we don’t know. Dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause in the top 10 without a way to cure or prevent it. But as we recognize Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month this June, let’s focus on the positive; there is a lot we DO know! Let’s start with five things we all should know about dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about 65% of cases. Although deaths from other major diseases have decreased or remained the same, Alzheimer’s deaths have increased substantially. In the US alone, AD afflicts approximately 7 million older people, thus impacting the caregivers as well. Since the hallmarks of the disease - plaques and tangles - were discovered by Dr. Alzheimer in 1906, there have been only 2 classes of FDA approved medications developed to treat the symptoms of AD and some other related dementias.

Every caregiver seems to have an arsenal of comical caregiving tales to share with anyone who can relate. When caring for someone with a disease whose devastating effects and chronic long-term stressors are arguably unmatched, it is no wonder we hold so closely to these little pockets of joy. After all, as Henry Ward Beecher explained, “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.”

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia, or having a loved one diagnosed, can cause a range of emotions, from shock to relief. But what happens next? We’ve put together a checklist of things for you, your family, and support team to consider over the next few months (or more!) as you navigate your journey.

Communication is 7% verbal (words and their meanings), 55% voice (pitch, tone, tempo, volume), and 38% body language (facial expressions, eyes, posture, movements, gestures). This is important because people with dementia may no longer understand the meaning of the words but they will be able to understand the remaining 93% of your communication. Make sure your body and voice are conveying the same message your words are trying to convey. Here are some tips for communication.

As a 28-year-old, I’d recently graduated from grad school, and snagged my ideal job in downtown DC as the manager of a health nonprofit. While everything looked bright for my career, my love life was turning out to be more difficult. I was almost 30, still single, and still looking for my soulmate. Because my parents were older, I wanted to start a family sooner than later. That’s when my dad was diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

If there ever was a time that challenged us as humans to embrace social connection, it is the year 2020, and the time spent coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Humans, because of necessity, evolved into social beings. Dependence on and cooperation with each other enhanced our ability to survive under harsh environmental circumstances. I think it is safe to say coronavirus has created harsh conditions, to say the least!

With over 5 million Americans living with dementia, chances are you know someone living with memory impairment – whether you’re aware of it or not! The stigma of dementia is still prevalent in our society, leading many to hide their diagnosis, or avoid asking the doctor in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that your neighbor may not need your help. If you’re concerned about a forgetful neighbor, here are some signs to look for.

Insight Memory Care Center offers free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials to people with concerns about their memory or who want to check their memory now for future comparison. The best part – memory screenings are now being held virtually, so you can perform this simple evaluation from the comfort of home! So who would benefit from a memory screening?

Wandering is a common behavior among individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias. Six in 10 people with dementia will wander one time and many will wander repeatedly. Everyone with dementia is at risk of wandering and wandering behavior can be dangerous and stressful for people with dementia and their family caregivers. Faculty and students at George Mason University have been conducting research to gain a better understanding about wandering as it relates to dementia, by tracking the movement patterns of people with dementia who are participants in their study.

Do you know someone with Parkinson’s? I’m always amazed by how many people not only know someone, but know someone in their family. By that I mean a spouse, parent, grand-parent or other close relative. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, “Nearly one million will be living with Parkinson's disease (PD) in the U.S. by 2020."

Now that we're all spending a lot more time at home, here's a helpful task to add to the spring cleaning list: making your space more dementia friendly. Don't worry, "Designing for Dementia" makes it sound a lot more complicated than it really is! Using a few design best practices, you'll find there are a number of small changes you can make at home that will have a big impact on the quality of life for both you and your loved one.

We’ve long been implementing sensory-based programming into our later-stage programs as a tried and true method of engaging and connecting with participants in a meaningful way. Now we have a gold standard model to help focus our efforts on methods that a growing body of research is showing to have positive effects on those with late-stage dementia, their family members, and even professional caregivers!

I’m a Nurse Practitioner with 18 years of experience caring for people with dementia. My specialty is research, or more specifically, clinical trial research aimed at the discovery of new treatments and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Here are some of the most common questions I’m asked about dementia.

Every caregiver seems to have an arsenal of comical caregiving tales to share with anyone who can relate. When caring for someone with a disease whose devastating effects and chronic long-term stressors are arguably unmatched, it is no wonder we hold so closely to these little pockets of joy.

When you begin to research, the first thing you often learn is how much you don’t know. And with dementia, while there is still a lot we don’t know, there is a lot we do! Here are five things we DO know – and should know - about dementia.

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"I like that IMCC focuses on dementia-related problems and provides a focal point for families to network and socially interact in coping with dementia. It provides a community that helps us in our struggle."