The Brain & Dementia
Hello, everyone. Leslie Fuller with Inspired Dementia Care. I haven’t seen you all in a while. It’s good to be back. I just wanted to share a new learning tool that I have found that I love. And I’ve been kind of geeking out on it just a little bit, and I think it is important for everyone on this call to understand how dementia affects the brain. Now, I am not a neurologist nor a physician, I’m not going to go into a deep dive here. I encourage you all to deep dive into a little bit of research if you’d like, but I want to help you understand how dementia affects the brain so that as you’re helping someone who’s living with dementia, it makes a little bit more sense as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. I’m going to take my brain in half here.
First thing I really want to focus on is the fact that someone who has dementia, doesn’t just make their brain stop working. That’s that’s not the way it does. It affects very specific parts of the brain over time, affecting more and more, but there’s plenty of the brain that is still working and it’s working just great. And so we, as the partners for those individuals to help them really find those parts that are working well and help them excel and live in that part of their success, is such a gift to them. It doesn’t do any good for us to focus on what doesn’t work, let’s focus on what does work. That is what we call it, the strengths-based perspective, in my field. The way the brain is structured here is we have, this is the frontal lobe.
Okay? The frontal lobe is our thinking and our processing and our problem solving and our filter that helps us take the data that we take into the world and then respond to the world. If this gets affected, what can happen is problem solving skills are challenged. Perhaps the filter, we like to say that the, verbal filter is in here. If somebody has never used curse words in their life, but those curse words are there. They’re retained in the brain, but the filter has kept them from using them all the time. They know when to appropriately say something or not. So when that frontal lobe starts getting affected, you may have someone who just starts cursing and you think, oh my goodness, that filter just isn’t functioning so well for them anymore. Okay. So, that’s your, that’s your frontal lobe right here.
We have the, where are we? Motor and sensory. Okay. So this helps you function your motor skills – your touch, your grasp, your sensations, that type of thing, your actual motor skills. And then this is sensory, which is responding to touch to taste to the world that’s around us. Uh, your parietal lobe and your frontal, your pride locus right here, and your frontal lobe. They kind of function together along with the sensory motor skills to really take in what’s going on around the world and how do we process that? Here you have temporal lobe, and if you’ll notice you have two temporal lobes, one on each side. Teepa snow likes to talk a lot about, and it really helps you to understand it is on the right side of your brain is your temporal lobe really is about rhythm and about cadence.
Music and poetry. Let’s see, what else is there? Things like scripture and spirituality tend to focus here. So if a person’s right temporal lobe is functioning beautifully, which this does tend to stay intact longer, imagine somebody’s music, how you can really touch somebody with music, their memories of music, and that that rhythm of music is still completely intact. And that’s why you can have someone who maybe is at advanced stages, maybe can no longer speak, really does not seem to be taking in sensations around them that you’re trying to offer them, but you turn on music and they may actually start singing to those songs again though they can’t have a conversation with you. Okay. Then on the left side at your temporal lobe over here is really language that’s where language is kept and used.
This side tends to is affected earlier. And so this is word choice. Being able to find that word, using the proper words. Language is on the left and rhythm is on the right. And then on the back of the brain here, I’ll keep it together. Is your occipital lobe. Your occipital lobe controls your vision. So you take things in through your eyes and then your occipital lobe uses that data that it takes to process and then your brain uses that. So the occipital lobe can be affected, as it goes, it gets as the disease progresses, it is affected more. The vision tends to close in the further the disease process goes. So as, as Tepa snow likes to say, you know, you start off with that scuba vision.
Your peripheral vision is lessened. So think about when you’re helping somebody whose disease is progressing that it to try to come up to them from the side, they, if you notice they might get more startled, startled more easily. Well, imagine if all of a sudden things are just coming at you. That’s why it’s very important to also to come at them from the front, because as this being able to perceive the world shrinks as the disease progresses, like this being able to be directly in front of them and helping them to grasp what they’re seeing slowly and not too close, don’t, don’t get in like this there’s, that will cause them to, you know, to push away, give them some distance, to be able to take in what they’re seeing. I remember working in community life.
You could set a plate down in front of somebody at dining and they would just sit there and you’re thinking, oh, are they not hungry? What’s going on? Do they not know about their food? Well, if my vision is like this, and I put a plate of food down in front, like this, it’s not getting my attention because I’m not seeing it. Okay. So your occipital lobe, is affected in that way. Let’s see. What else, what other part do we have? Oh, and here is the cerebellum is back here. So this affects coordination, standing, balance, that type of thing. So when somebody gets hit in the back of the head, when they stand up, I think about our Patrick Mahomes, you know, when he got, got a hit during that one game and he stood up and started to stand up and then just kind of fell – well, he got whacked on the back of his head.
Your cerebellum controls that. Then there are lots of, as I said, I’ve been watching so many videos and there’s so much to take in, but inside the brain then is we have even more critical parts of functioning. For example, okay, here’s the amygdala. I don’t know what kind of tiny the amygdala is, but the amygdala actually stays intact a long time through dementia. It is our survival instinct. I like to say your fight flight or fright, is deep in the brain and really stays functioning. So sometimes you can have someone who’s losing their abilities here and their cognitive processing and memory skills, but boy, that fight or flight, process is still going. So you’ve got someone who’s got that tunnel vision, right? Somebody comes up to the side from them and then all of a sudden comes in front and they get scared that amygdala is in fight or flight, which might mean as that person comes in.
“Oh my God, stop!”. And they hit, right. It doesn’t mean that the person is being combative. They’re doing the best they can with the processing, the challenges and the changes that are going on in their brain. So again, I tried to learn a little bit more every day, but every time, the more I learn, the more I feel they need to learn. But I really want you to take away from this is when the individual that you are supporting and helping has changes in how they’re, behaving, how they’re interacting with you, please understand they have changes going on in the brain. The brain is, is shrinking, but the whole thing isn’t just going away. It’s parts of their brain that are being affected. So to love them and care for them, help acknowledge which parts are having challenges and help the rest of the brain be successful. That’s how we can be the best care partners that we possibly can.
So I hope this was helpful. I encourage you go to the internet, just spend 20 minutes a day, pulling up videos, pulling up. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube, looking at, images to just try to understand and start grasping the difference of all the different parts of the brain, and then how we can help them based on that knowledge you have. I hope you enjoyed. It was good to see everyone again, take care. Bye-bye.