Throughout the month of January, well-known author and speaker, Dr. Tam Cummings, toured across the MRC communities to give a presentation called, “Understanding Alzheimer’s and other Dementias.” Cummings is a Gerontologist serving as one of the leading trainers and educators on memory loss in the country.
In addition to the four books she has authored, the doctor is often recognized as developing the Dementia Behavioral Assessment Tool (DBAT) that allows caregivers to better understand where their loved one is in their memory loss journey. Impressively, the DBAT remains the only tool of its kind to this day.
During the trainings, Dr. Cummings explained that many people are diagnosed with memory loss but fail to have the follow up understanding of exactly what type of dementia they are experiencing which can give them stronger tooling for navigating what may be next. She went on to explain that dementia is an umbrella term, therefore, this diagnosis alone really isn’t giving the full picture. She likened it to cancer in that cancer is an umbrella term as well. She explained, “If your doctor told you that you had cancer, you’d ask: ‘What type? What stage? Is there any treatment?’ These are the same questions you should ask when you are diagnosed with dementia.”
According to Cummings, there are nine common dementias that can be easily distinguished from one another when properly understanding the characteristics of each: Mixed Dementia, Alzheimer's, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Fronto-Temporal Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, Huntington’s Dementia and Chronic-Traumatic Encephalopathy.
After walking the attendees through each of the distinguishing characteristics, she gave practical tools on how to communicate best with each of these individuals. She even gave interactive demonstrations asking the audience to cup their hands around their eyes to understand how vision impairment that is associated with dementia will impact common behavior related to eating and general irritation.
Each attendee was also given a workbook with the DBAT staging tool as well as tips for caregivers. She made herself available for questions and even met one on one with families who had more extensive questions about their loved one.
“Dr. Tam Cummings is one of the most prominent voices today on memory loss. We are so fortunate to have her as a partner at MRC,” said Alan Brown, MRC President and CEO.