Changing Abilities

Laurie (revised since our conversation) – You were going to check to see if any of this could be merged with the Cognition Lessons.

Age Related Changes

Dementia is not a part of healthy aging. But, as people age there are many changes to their abilities that take place as part of getting older. In a program like Artful Moments, you may find people who are living with changing abilities caused by age, other health conditions or even injuries, and these layered changes will all have an impact on how a person engages. Before examining the impact of dementia on a person, let’s consider some changes that occur as people age. 

Memory and Thinking

As you age, the brain undergoes changes that may have minor effects on memory or thinking skills. For example, a healthy older adult might forget familiar names or words, or they may find it more difficult to multitask. The person may express some concern about memory loss but generally memory is not significantly impaired  and the memory loss is not progressive.

Changes to our Senses

As we get older, our senses tend to become less acute, including smell, taste and touch. 

We may also experience a change in our vision. It becomes harder to see things up close, including small print on paper and screens, and it is harder to distinguish between things with low contrast such as white paper on a white table. Peripheral vision declines, so it is harder to see things off to the side, like the person sitting beside you. Older eyes can require more time to adjust to changing light levels, such as walking into a dim room after being in the sun. Many also have less tolerance for glare from shiny surfaces, like glass on pictures, or sun shining on them. There is also an increased risk of conditions such as cataracts, or macular degeneration.

Our hearing may also change. Many people experience hearing loss for higher-frequency sounds, such as a woman’s voice. They may also find it hard to participate in conversation where there is background noise.

Physical Changes

With age, bones and muscles can lose strength, endurance and flexibility – factors that can affect stability and balance. An older person may also experience diseases that change the physical body, affecting their strength, fine motor skills and dexterity, like heart disease and arthritis.

Abilities Affected By Dementia

The brain controls everything a person does. In dementia, many areas of the brain are affected, and this impacts how the person thinks, communicates, sees the world, feels, and does things. The degree of damage to the brain will vary from person to person. As a facilitator in a program like Artful Moments, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of some of the changes that may occur in the brain and how these changes may impact the participant’s ability to engage in the Artful Moments program. Remember that it is not important for you to label the changes in abilities but rather to understand and recognize them so that you can apply a strategy to help the person engage.