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As we age, we tend to forget certain things such as a house key or, perhaps, a phone number. We become more concerned as an older loved one does things that seem out of the ordinary such as having difficulty verbally communicating or losing interest in daily activities, or having an unusual emotional reaction to something mundane.

These could be signs of what is known as dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, dementia “is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change.” A recent study by Columbia University found that “almost 10% of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have dementia, while another 22% have mild cognitive impairment.”

“Dementia is a devastating disease that no one should go through alone, as a caregiver or as the person living with the disease,” said Elderwerks President Jennifer Prell. “Dementia education is important for anyone who encounters people with cognitive impairment. A majority of our calls are regarding changes in behavior, memory loss, next steps, and those in crisis due to a dementia diagnosis. We want to help people plan for these situations, understand how to engage, and how to cope through the entire process.”

In addition to monthly webinars and in-person events, Elderwerks offers specific training programs for professionals such as case managers, social workers, and memory support staff at all levels, the knowledge and tools they need through its Dementia Academy. Participants learn about memory loss, effective communication skills, and problem-solving remedies for people who exhibit challenging behavior.

“There has been a very positive response to these programs,” Prell said. “We receive many calls asking when the next dementia class is. They’re typically well attended, and many talk about how they learned a new perspective or new information from the classes.”

Within the Academy is a special program called Dementia Reality®, a collaboration between Elderwerks and CJE Senior Life, a Chicago nonprofit that also helps the needs of older adults. This program combines skills training with real-life obstacles in a virtual world. Master Trainers help participants gain skills training with real-life obstacles in a virtual world. There are classroom group discussions and follow-up periods.

“This program truly gives participants a first-hand experience in how they can help to improve the quality of care for a person living with dementia,” Prell said. “Those who enroll in the program can earn one and one-half hours of continuing education credits per module, 5 modules available. The Dementia Reality training teaches personhood, empathy, safety and understanding, and managing behaviors. Some benefits for clients and residents include better communication, improved behavioral outcomes, and decreased use of psychotropic medications.”

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Finding assisted living or other types of aging care can be overwhelming. Let our dedicated team help you navigate your options.

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