The Challenge of Memory: Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias

Course Author: Doug McNair, M.D., Ph.D.

This course, The Challenge of Memory: Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias, is designed to assist chaplains, spiritual care providers, and other professional health disciplines in understanding and applying concepts about dementia to their care of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions in which cognition, memory, and expression are impaired. It includes information on how impairment of cognition and memory may affect a person’s sense of identity and their religious, spiritual, and/or existential experience. Professional providers have opportunities to mentor as well as support the patient, to safeguard the patient against medical errors and under-provisioning of palliative treatments, and to teach other caregivers who interact with and care for such patients.

By the end of this course the learner will be able to:

  • Describe features of dementia and its progression.
  • Identify communicative and cognitive challenges that may occur in relation to caring for persons with dementia.
  • Articulate the role of religious, spiritual, and existential factors mediating the experience of dementia.
  • Describe the role of the chaplain or spiritual care provider in engaging with persons suffering from dementia, including assessment, interventions, communication with other members of the care team, and documentation and reporting.
Course Outline
  1. Introduction
  2. The Disease Awakens: MCI and Diagnosis of Dementia
  3. Chaplains’ Assessment and Documentation
  4. Disability and the Person’s R/S History
  5. Preference for Solitariness versus Community
  6. Non-Western Perspectives
  7. Grief, Hope, and Expectation in Dementia
  8. Home and Place
  9. Worldbuilding
  10. Xenophobia and Anger
  11. Animal Nature
  12. Polypharmacy
  13. Conclusion
  14. Summary
  15. References
Number of Continuing Education Hours: 25
Credit towards Board Certification Requirements: 1
Aligns with the following Quality Indicators in What is Quality Spiritual Care in Health Care and How Do You Measure It? (HCCN. 2016).
  • Process Indicator 2.B. All clients are offered the opportunity to have a discussion of religious/spiritual concerns.
  • Process Indicator 2.C. An assessment of religious, spiritual, and existential concerns using a structured instrument is developed and documented, and the information obtained from the assessment is integrated into the overall care plan.
  • Process Indicator 2.G. End of life and Bereavement Care is provided as appropriate to the population served.
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