The Dementias: Hope through Research – New Online CE Course

By the National Institute on Aging (NIA)

The Dementias: Hope through ResearchA diagnosis of dementia can be frightening for those affected by the syndrome, their family members, and caretakers. Learning more about dementia can help. This new continuing education (CE/CEU) course provides a general overview of various types of dementia, describes how the disorders are diagnosed and treated, and offers highlights of research that is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Click here to learn more.

CE Credit: 1 Hour
Target Audience: Psychologists | Counselors | Social Workers | Occupational Therapists | MFTs | Nutritionists & Dietitians
Learning Level: Intermediate
Course Type: Online
Cost: $19

The Basics of Dementia

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning, which means the loss of the ability to think, remember, or reason, as well as behavioral abilities, to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss. Researchers are still trying to understand the underlying disease processes involved in the disorders.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Age is the primary risk factor for developing dementia. For that reason, the number of people living with dementia could double in the next 40 years with an increase in the number of Americans who are age 65 or older—from 40 million today to more than 88 million in 2050. Regardless of the form of dementia, the personal, economic, and societal demands can be devastating.”

Types of Dementia

Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal disorders, and Lewy body dementia result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functions. Currently, there are no cures for these progressive neurodegenerative disorders.

However, other types of dementia can be halted or even reversed with treatment. Normal pressure hydrocephalus, for example, often resolves when excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is drained via a shunt and rerouted elsewhere in the body. Cerebral vasculitis responds to aggressive treatment with immunosuppressive drugs. In rare cases, treatable infectious disorders can cause dementia. Some drugs, vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, depression, and brain tumors can cause neurological deficits that resemble dementia. Most of these causes respond to treatment.

Causes of Dementia

In many cases, the causes of dementia are unknown at the present time. However, some dementias have identifiable causes such as gene mutation, head injury, Parkinson’s disease, vascular injuries, stroke, other brain diseases such as Huntington’s disease environmental factors like poisoning or substance abuse, and infectious diseases like HIV.

Risk factors include age, alcohol use, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Down syndrome, genetics, hypertension, mental illness, and smoking.

Treatment and Management

Some dementias are treatable. However, therapies to stop or slow common neurodegenerative diseases such as AD have largely been unsuccessful, though some drugs are available to manage certain symptoms. Most drugs for dementia are used to treat symptoms in AD. These drugs are sometimes used to treat other dementias as well. These drugs can temporarily improve or stabilize memory and thinking skills in some people by increasing the activity of the cholinergic brain network. They may also prevent declines in learning and memory. None of these drugs can stop or reverse the course of the disease.

This new CE course The Dementias: Hope through Research provides a general overview of dementia and specific types of dementia along with their signs and symptoms; lists risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing one or more kinds of dementia; describes how the disorders are diagnosed and treated, including drug therapy; and offers highlights of ongoing research.

Currently, there are no cures for the common dementias caused by progressive neurodegeneration, including AD, frontotemporal disorders, and Lewy body dementia. However, some forms of dementia are treatable. A better understanding of dementia disorders, as well as their diagnosis and treatment, will make it possible for affected individuals and their caretakers to live their lives more fully and meet daily challenges.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCCACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the CaliforniaBoard of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

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