Focus on the Journey

No matter our stage in life, we can all benefit from adopting a “learning” mindset. Research has shown over and over again that people love to learn. In fact, it is something that we all do every day. For persons living with dementia, learning is no longer about memorizing facts & figures. It is about using adult terminology, having positive experiences, focusing on familiar and age-appropriate topics, and providing unlimited opportunities to validate a life well-lived.  

A learning mindset begins with curiosity and moves down a path of recall and reminiscing. Looking at a vintage photo of Henry Ford standing next to an automobile may bring forward memories of a person’s first car. The learning journey then becomes a cycle of positive outcomes; participants tell stories, and families are rewarded with learning more about their loved ones. Think of the opportunities and validation you have just provided your loved one.  

When we refer to people as “learners,” they become happier, feel more engaged, and eager to participate. Anxiety and boredom are reduced, enabling improved alertness and higher energy levels. Consider how powerful this attitude is if it is a part of everyday life for every senior adult living with dementia. Whether we refer to this learning as “cognitive stimulation” or “intellectual stimulation,” it is the best thing we can do for our brains.  

Family members who have implemented learning experiences have found that the entire family’s feelings & attitudes have changed. Participants are gently led through positive experiences, and suddenly they have a purpose. Engagement sessions become meaningful and are not just entertainment or distraction or child-like.  

Learning never ends. We all learn every day – assuming that people living with dementia are not interested or no longer able to learn does a disservice to these special people. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones is to know that the time we spend with them leaves them feeling valued, loved, and connected.
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