CHHS School of Social Work Co-Sponsors Event About Creative Approaches to Managing Dementia-Related Behaviors

CHHS School of Social Work Co-Sponsors Event About Creative Approaches to Managing Dementia-Related Behaviors

Currently there are over five million older adults who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. This number is projected to reach 16 million by 2050. In North Carolina alone, a 40 percent increase in diagnoses is estimated by 2025. Despite growing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, many individuals feel uncertain about the scope of the disease and its progression, as well as understanding and managing behavioral disturbances that may be experienced across different stages of the disease.

On Feb. 22, the School of Social Work co-sponsored an event that addressed Creative Approaches to Managing Dementia-Related Behaviors with the New Hanover County Senior Resources Center, Area Agency on Aging and AARP.

Suzanne Fitzsimmons, geriatric nurse practitioner and adjunct instructor of recreation therapy and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Department of Gerontology at the University of Southern Maine, led an interactive presentation that took the audience through the true story of Mrs. H., an older adult diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The purpose was to increase awareness regarding the scope and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, common behavioral and non-pharmacological approaches to reduce or eliminate behavioral and psychological disturbances that may be observed across different stages of the disease, and programs and approaches to promote the individual’s health and success in the community and long-term care settings.

The presentation was followed by a panel of experts, who briefly discussed their areas of interest and provided thoughtful responses to the audience.

The panel included speaker Suzanne Fitzsimmons; Angie Sardina, Ph.D., LRT/CTRS, assistant professor, Department of Recreation Therapy, School of Health and Applied Human Sciences; Andrea Jones, Ph.D., MSW, LSW, assistant professor, School of Social Work; Holly Pilson, caregiver resource specialist with the Area Agency on Aging and Cape Fear Council of Governments; Al Wordsworth, caregiver support group co-facilitator, caregiver mentor, mentor to UNCW students; and Tamatha Arms, DNP, PMHNP-BC, NP-C, assistant professor, School of Nursing.

Events like this are important because they enhance awareness of community services and available programs that may be accessed to enhance the success of the individual with the disease; provide students with a unique perspective on abnormal aging processes and encourage the application of this information across allied health fields; provide community with more information pertaining to current research efforts underway at UNCW; stimulate interprofessional collaboration and discussion between researchers and practitioners; and provide opportunities to identify current needs and trends as described by formal and/or informal caregivers, as well as those who have been diagnosed.

“I would like to thank the College of Health and Human Services for their ongoing support of such initiatives and events,” Assistant Professor Angie Sardina said.