The Seven Stages of Dementia Workshop Coming to Region

Sacramento Region  |  By Randi Beasley, Outreach Manager

You have probably heard it dozens of times from seniors in your life: “I can’t find my glasses, I must be getting Old Timer’s Disease”.  Which is only half joking when it comes to dementia.   It is often hard, even for health care professionals, to sort out normal aging symptoms from those associated with dementia.  It is no wonder that families often find themselves asking:  “Is this normal?  Should we be concerned?  What can we do about the situation?”  Unfortunately, there are no clear or straight-forward answers.

 Nearly everyone has been touched by dementia, either through direct experiences with families or friends or indirectly though co-workers, acquaintances or life experiences.  It is a scary, sneaky indiscriminate killer that crosses all social boundaries and drastically changes the dynamics of family life.

 Even though the prevalence rate of dementia has fallen dramatically in recent years, there are still over 7 million American seniors today that have some form of dementia.  Diet and exercise, along with staying physically fit and mentally active, have helped slow and reduce the overall risk of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most prevalent and recognized form of dementia.  There are presently 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.  Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds--that is 500,000 additional Americans every year.  By 2050, that number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease alone is expected to increase to 16 million.  Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s is also the only disease in the top ten that cannot be cured or prevented.  (American Alzheimer’s Association).   .

 Alzheimer’s disease is a progressively degenerative disorder that becomes worse over time.  It involves a gradual loss in memory, as well as changes in behavior, thinking, physical abilities and language skills.  Even though it cannot be cured, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be managed with early identification of the disease, treatment, care and changes to in daily environment and living conditions.

Identifying someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is sometimes difficult, even for health care professionals.  Many dementia symptoms overlap with normal aging related changes that typical occur when people move into their 50s.  The most common aging symptoms include slower recall speed and reaction times, decreased problem solving abilities and decreased attention span and concentration.  These are all regular mental declines associated with aging, which occur at a slow and gradual pace.  Dementia, however, is often characterized by rapid, sudden and severe changes in memory and cognitive ability (Mayo Clinic).

There are a number of recognized systems to help identify, chart and measure dementia.   The most common system used to measure the stages of dementia is the Reisberg Scale, also known as the Global Deterioration Scale, or GDS. The GDS divides the disease process into seven stages based on the amount of mental and physical decline.  These stages range from very mild to very severe. 

 While identifying possible signs of dementia is tough enough, dealing with its repercussions and aftermath is often a daunting experience for families and loved ones.  There are a number of educational programs and seminars relating to identifying and understanding dementia and Alzheimer’s.  One such program is a two part workshop entitled the Stages of Dementia and Life As a Caregiver series developed by Kristina Blocker of Silver Pathways in Loomis.

Blocker is a geriatric specialist who has an expertise in lifestyle care planning, dementia training, home care plans and placements and assessments for families with assisted living and dementia needs.  She has found that families often needed more help coping with a relative’s dementia that did the residents themselves, stating:  “I decided to start a business with educating families on what to do and how to cope with dementia, and what to expect when the unexpected happens, how to communicate, that sort of thing”.

Blocker’s next workshop on helping to identify the symptoms and stages of dementia (Stages of Dementia) will be Thursday, December 6th from 10-12:30 at the Summerset Senior Living, located at 2341 Vehicle Drive, Rancho Cordova .  Her follow up seminar (Life As a Caregiver) will also be at the Summerset Community from 10-11:30 on Thursday, December 13th. There is no cost for this seminar and reservations can be made by calling Summerset at (916) 330-1300