Think back to the day of your loved one's dementia diagnosis. Do you remember hearing something like your mom or dad or spouse or child has dementia and he or she is going to lose their memory? What about the next few minutes or hours? Did you go home, cry and wonder what it meant? Pray about what you would do?
What if the same doctor had used the word "cancer" instead of dementia? What questions would you have immediately asked, what actions would you have demanded? A second opinion, referral to a specialist, the stage of dementia, the type of dementia, medication and treatment plans perhaps?
Dementia, like cancer, is an umbrella term. It indicates at least two of the four lobes of the brain are currently affected and the presence of one (or more) of 48 dementias has or should be identified. Alzheimer's is actually a dementia, not another disease. It's medical name is Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type or DAT.
Today an estimated 5.7 million Americans are believed to have one of the four types of Alzheimer's Disease. Another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 68 seconds. It is truly a national disaster. But when you add in persons with one of the other 47 identified forms of dementia like Lewy Body, Vascular Dementia (five variations), Frontotemporal Degeneration (nine types), Parkinson's Dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff's (alcohol dementia), Huntington's, AIDs dementia, etc., the total number of Americans in some stage of dementia is closer to 10 - 11 million. That's a new case of dementia every 36 seconds and that is frightening!
Understanding Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
Tam Cummings is a gerontologist dedicated to untangling the complexities of dementia and she's also the founder of The Dementia Association. An internationally recognized author, educator and keynote speaker, Tam has helped thousands of families and professional care partners throughout the United States, England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand understand the stages of dementia and the process of the disease.
Tam's books, Untangling Alzheimer's and The Final Year...The Final Moment are designed to allow the first time caregiver and the longtime professional to gain the understanding and skills they will need to work effectively with persons with dementia. Her stages of dementia tool, the DBAT, is adapted from the Global Deterioration Scale. Updated with the behaviors easily recognized in each stage of dementia, the DBAT allows families to track the disease process, prepare for the future and recognize how the behaviors of their loved ones are directly related to damage in the brain's lobes.
As a gerontologist, Tam provides private consultation and education services to families, extensive education courses for nurses, social workers, administrators and activity directors, keynote addresses and breakout sessions on dementia or the aging process for national, state or regional conferences and individualized programming for dementia and memory care communities.
Tam has worked in dementia communities for more than two decades, giving her firsthand experience with persons with dementia, their struggles and behaviors and the frustration families and professionals face daily. She has used that experience to develop her stages of dementia tool. She is dedicated and passionate about helping care partners learn the skills needed to provide for care.
Tam has been the director of social work for a skilled nursing facility, the program director for memory care communities and a geriatric case manager for persons with dementia. She has been in private practice for more than four years.
A master's graduate of Baylor University's Institute of Gerontological Studies, Tam complemented her education with post-graduate studies in educational psychology at Baylor and rural public health at Texas A&M University. She is a member of the National Gerontological Society and Sigma Phi Omega, the National Society for Professional Gerontologists.