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Teaching Strategies

The Disease Mechanism of Alzheimer's Dementia: Understanding Pathology, Progression, and Process


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Overview of Teaching Strategy

While the symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia are prevalent in many practice arenas, the disease behind the symptoms is often not clearly understood. The correlation between symptoms, etiology, and pathophysiology is not as tangible as other physiological diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Dementia symptoms that present as psychiatric behaviors are often misinterpreted as willful or oppositional. This erroneous notion can lead to diminished care, practitioner burnout, and ineffective assessment. The development of an understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease process and the course of the disease can help the practitioner to better understand the correlation between the disease and the symptoms. Since the diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia is made by exclusion of other possible causes for the presenting symptoms, the method of understanding the underlying disease is imperative.

This teaching strategy is designed to help the student become more proficient in understanding Alzheimer's dementia as a disease process. It was created to pair a topic that is heavily laden with complexity with an engaging approach. The premise of the strategy is similar to a game show where the participants are quizzed on content areas about the pathophysiology, etiology, course of the illness, and epidemiology of Alzheimer's dementia. Designed as a flipped lecture approach, the students learn about the content through readings prior to class and participate in the game format in class.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's dementia
  • Discuss how the symptoms of the disease are directly related to the changes in the brain
  • Recognize the encompassing implications of caregiver strain for both the caregiver and the patient.
  • Articulate the common symptoms seen in the progression of Alzheimer's dementia
  • Develop an understanding of how Alzheimer's dementia is diagnosed
  • Recognize the differences between Alzheimer's dementia and age associated cognitive changes
  • Discuss risk factors associated with Alzheimer's dementia

Aces Essential Knowledge Domains

  • Complexity of Care
  • Individualized Aging
  • Vulnerability During Transitions

Aces Essential Nursing Actions

  • Assess Function and Expectations
  • Use Evolving Knowledge
  • Coordinate and Manage Care
  • Make Situational Decisions
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