Our brain is amazing! It is one of the most important organs in the human body. It is also the most complex. The frontal lobe, is located at the front of our brain, it is the largest of the four major lobes of the cerebral cortex. This is known as the “Executive Control Center”.
It is where we have impulse control, can make choices (decision making), aware of our self, where we see others’ point of view, it is where we start — sequence — complete — move — on. The parietal lobe is located in the middle section or the brain and is associated with processing tactile sensory information. The occipital lobe is located at the back portion of the brain and is associated with interpreting visual stimuli and information. The temporal lobe is located on the bottom section of the brain. Located in this section is where sounds and language are interpreted. The hippocampus is also located in the temporal lobe. This portion of the brain is heavily associated with the formation of memories. It is the “Learning & Memory Center”. This is the part of the brain that helps us with way finding, time awareness, learning and memory. This is the part of the brain I would like to talk about today. The part of our brain that helps us find our way and keeps us aware of time. When a person is living with any condition of dementia their brain is failing! We all should keep this in mind and understand the person living with dementia is doing the best they can do. Their brain is failing, their brain is dying.
My Uncle Shug Royal lived with Alzheimer’s disease. His family did notice some changes in the beginning of this disease. However in the beginning they did not know for sure what was going on. The family became fully aware that dementia had set in during one of their family vacations. My Uncle Shug’s family would always go on vacation and stay at a family beach house located at Myrtle Beach. The beach house was two blocks from the sandy beach. It was a straight walk right down to the edge of the water. The entire family had made this walk many times during the years of family vacations. Once again they made the two block walk to enjoy the sun, water and the sandy beach. Uncle Shug later decided he would walk the familiar path to the ocean front. When he arrived at the beach he got confused, there were so many people on the beach! He could not find his family. So he began to walk down the beach. After some time he decided to go back to the streets, he went left instead of right. Keep in mind it was in the middle of July and a very hot day. He could not find his way back. If it had not been for some good Samaritans this would have been a tragedy. A couple noticed uncle Shug appeared to be in distress and confused. They invited him to come in their home and cool off. Meanwhile the entire family after realizing Uncle Shug was missing was frantically in search mode. The police, the life guards and anyone they could find to help. It was when a family member rode by on her vehicle when she spotted uncle Shug going into this couples house. After retrieving Uncle Shug and hydrating him, the family reassured him. He sensed he had done something wrong, like a child knew they were in trouble. But the family continued to reassure him and comfort him. They did not scold him. After that they never left him alone at the beach house again. This was a hard lesson but a lesson learned.
Uncle Shug’s way finder was failing. His time awareness was failing. He was doing the best he could do to get back home. When we start to understand what is going on inside their brain, we begin to understand why the person living with Alzheimer’s or other conditions of dementia do what they do!
I recently spoke to the Adult Senior Classes at the First Baptist Church in Clinton. This makes the second time I have had the opportunity to share with them. I think it is wonderful when our community is interested in learning all they can about this dreaded disease. I appreciated the invite to share about Dementia, because “Knowledge is power”! My Positive Approach to Care training tells me “It’s all in your approach” and “We are the key to make life worth living”, “We must be willing to change ourselves and realize the person living with Dementia is doing the best they can do”.
Stay in tune, I do not want you to miss anything! Hope you have a “Best Day Ever”.
Lesia Henderson is the aging specialist with the Sampson County Department of Aging.