Understanding Dementia

Side by Side: Understanding Dementia Within Our Community

As dementia causes deterioration to neurons in the brain, individuals experience growing challenges with memories, cognitive function and engaging in daily activities. Although damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is permanent, individuals with the disease can continue to thrive with some modifications by care partners.

At a recent workshop entitled “Side by Side: Understanding Dementia Within Our Community” at Mercy Care & Retirement Center, participants heard valuable information in two sessions: “Understanding the Brain & Means of Communication” and “Change Your Thinking for Meaningful Relationships.” The first session included an overview of the disease process and the various ways in which it affects the brain.

The session also investigated the role of the physical environment, along with tips for increasing independence and reducing feelings of anxiety and confusion among individuals with dementia. Using tone of voice, language and nonverbal communication effectively were also among the topics of discussion.

In the second session, participants discussed the importance of releasing expectations and giving up attempts to control someone with dementia. By doing so, participants learned, care partners can enjoy authentic relationships and learn to be present with themselves and others.

How Dementia Changes the Brain

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that the disease strikes about 10 percent of people over age 65 and nearly half of people who live past the age of 85. As the disease takes hold, messenger chemicals in the brain decrease, and brain cells become less able to connect to other cells. At this stage of the disease, individuals with Alzheimer’s begin having memory problems.

As the disease progresses, nerve cells die and individuals with Alzheimer’s may become anxious and confused in unfamiliar surroundings. Eventually, people with the disease lose the ability to recognize people they love and movement becomes difficult.

Educational programs like “Side by Side: Understanding Dementia Within Our Community” provide care partners with tools to help individuals with dementia live as independently and joyfully as possible. Mercy Care & Retirement Center is committed to increasing awareness and understanding of dementia throughout our local community.