What is Dementia: We Take a Closer Look

             Did you know that Dementia Awareness Week was this month? [Technically it has been moved to later in the year due to Covid-19, but we are still focusing on it this week too!] Aimed to bring awareness to the disease, its treatment and future research; we thought Dementia Awareness Week was the perfect time to spotlight Dementia and Alzheimer’s, as these are common mental health conditions our group members experience.

We often hear others use Dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably, but they are actually separate categories. Think of Dementia as an umbrella term, with Alzheimer’s being only one type of dementia. There are others as well, as you can see in the below graphic from the Alzheimer’s Association.

          While with these diagnoses, we often see difficulties with short-term memory recall, we also see a variety of symptoms.

Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia may have a difficult time regulating their moods, confusion, and changes in problem-solving skills. Dementia can cause tasks that someone did regularly and with ease, to become difficult and frustrating. Spatial distancing can be impacted, meaning he or she can struggle with judging distances and balance. Interactions with those closest to the person suffering from dementia may become strained in a way that never had been before.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence made a wonderful video from the point of view with someone who has dementia. The voice you’ll hear is someone who has been suffering from dementia.


            A focus of the staff here at Tender Heart is incorporating music into our group activities,

…as research has shown it has a variety of positive benefits for those experiencing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Music triggers long-term memories not yet impacted by dementia, giving those experiencing memory difficulties peace and the feeling of familiarity. Our social workers have witnessed these benefits first-hand in our sessions:

We have a group member named Bob (name changed for confidentiality) who is experiencing dementia and has a difficult time communicating. He often cannot speak in more than 2-3 word sentences. However, when a specific Elvis song is played, we see a shift happen. He taps his toes, he smiles, and he sings, every single word, from memory. He has a wonderful voice and after the song is over, he is able to share memories of singing in his church choir.

Another group member named Susie (name changed for confidentiality) experiences dementia and anxiety. This often causes her to be nervous in group, refraining from engaging independently. She often looks to our social workers for assistance and encouragement, unsure she is doing things correctly. When Take Me Out to the Ballgame is played, we see this shift take place for Susie as well. She immediately relaxes, her shoulders lower and we can see the tension leaving her body. She sings and dances along to the music, recalling memories of taking her sons to baseball games.

Each of our teams gets to see this shift among group members when their favorite songs are played. It creates a level of engagement that no other singular tool can.

This fantastic impact is why we are so happy and proud to offer our Tender Heart Sing-Alongs.

Available on our Facebook, with one of our social workers, Joe! https://www.facebook.com/Tenderheartac/ Also keep an eye out for our upcoming live sing alongs as well. 

If you’d like to find out more about what we talked about today, here are some amazing resources!

https://www.clarityofcognition.com/ Our staff have attended a lecture presented by Clarity of Cognition and were blown away by her level of awareness and understanding of dementia.

https://musicandmemory.org/ This organization delves into the details of how music impacts a brain experiencing dementia.