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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds We sometimes think of the brain as a computer processor or a giant storage system like this one here at Beamish Museum. A container for holding onto and organising all sorts of information and experiences.

Skip to 0 minutes and 26 seconds We rely on this kind of storage system to access and retrieve information that might be useful to us in the here and now. We’re always putting demands on the brain in this way. What does this remind me of? How does this work? How should I feel about this? We know that some of our experiences don’t become stored as long term memories. We can’t usually recall what we did this time last week, or last year, with any precision, unless we have prompts and clues to remind us. Most of us can’t remember every detail of a conversation or of a TV programme.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds We usually hold on only to the bits that are meaningful to us, storing what we think we might need to know later on. When we experience something significant in our lives, these memories are more clearly catalogued and more easily retrievable. So we remember important milestones in our life, moments of great happiness and moments of profound fear or sadness much more easily than mundane happenings such as our regular commute to work. Being able to retain and share our memories with others is important to us because this allows us to convey something about who we are and to establish points of connection. Feeling connected is such a vital part of our well-being.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 seconds A recent study found that nearly 2/3 of people living with dementia feel isolated. By finding ways of helping people to understand each other, to communicate, and to interact more effectively we can have more positive experiences together. Understanding a person living with dementia’s interpretation of their situation allows us to meet their needs and help them feel more comfortable.

Maintaining meaningful connections

Dementia is composed of three elements:

Impaired cognitive skills (i.e. problems with our thinking abilities - this might to be memory but can be other things like making decisions and communication skills), which are caused by disease of the brain, severe enough to impact on daily functioning.

There are also physical symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known cause of dementia, but there are many types. Dementia is a progressive condition - we usually distinguish between people who are in mild, moderate and advanced stages of the disease.

Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing. However, progressive loss of cognitive function is strongly correlated with age. Diseases of the brain are therefore more likely to affect older people, though not always.

This week, we look in more detail at how dementia affects the brain and our ability to connect with others.

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This video is from the free online course:

Dementia Care: Staying Connected and Living Well

Newcastle University

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