Dementia is a life-altering diagnosis for patients and loved-ones alike. The progressive disease causes cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes that can frustrate the efforts of even the most dedicated caregivers. Given the uniquely personal nature of dementia symptoms, treatment can be a supremely challenging experience, even for seasoned health care professionals.

In this book, authors Susan McCurry and Claudia Drossel present a clear and practical blueprint for psychologists, physicians, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals who work with dementia patients and their families. Their evidence-based contextual model of dementia care lays out broad intervention strategies, and encourages readers to use their own creativity and inner resources to develop appropriate solutions for each unique situation and individual.

The chapters present a rich variety of vignettes that illustrate common quality-of-life concerns in dementia patients, including medical co-morbidities, patient/caregiver relationships, caregiver burnout, and interactions with health care professionals. Throughout, the authors combine a comprehensive knowledge of the literature with their own extensive clinical experience in advocating a compassionate and open-minded stance that respects the individuality, preferences, and dignity of dementia patients.

Health care professionals at all levels of experience, from outpatient to assisted living to residential care settings, will find Treating Dementia in Context an inspirational resource for clinical practice.

Table of Contents

Rebecca G. Logsdon



I. Setting the Stage

  1. Making Sense of the Diagnosis
  2. The Contextual Model of Dementia Care

II. The Dementia DANCE for Clinicians

  1. Build Collaborative Relationships
  2. Discuss Concerns Respectfully: Establishing Consent and Rapport in the Initial Interview
  3. Ameliorate Excess Disability: Treating Sensory Loss and Comorbidities
  4. Nurture the Dyad: Strengthening Caregiver Partnerships
  5. Create Contextual Solutions: Managing Common Affective and Behavioral Changes
  6. Enjoy Sharing the Journey: Supporting a Good Quality of Life

III. Conclusion

  1. Going the Distance: Your Long-Term Role

Appendix A: Useful Assessment Measures for Dementia Care

Appendix B: A • B • C Tracking Sheet

Appendix C: Sample Consultation Report Illustrating a Case Conceptualization

Appendix D: Additional Resources



About the Authors

Author Bios

Susan M. McCurry, PhD, is research professor in the University of Washington Department of Psychosocial and Community Health and adjunct research professor in psychiatry and behavioral Sciences. She is a clinical psychologist specializing in gerontology, and has worked with older adults with memory loss and their families for over 20 years. She is a fellow in the Gerontological Society of America, and has coauthored over 100 professional publications and book chapters.

Her ongoing clinical research focuses on

  • assessment and treatment of sleep disturbances in older adults with dementia or other co-morbid medical conditions such as chronic pain;
  • development and evaluation of training programs for family and professional staff caring for persons with dementia; and
  • examination of the environmental, behavioral, and psychosocial factors associated with cognitive decline.

She is author of the book, When a Family Member Has Dementia: Steps to Becoming a Resilient Caregiver (2006), a practical and positive guide for family and professional caregivers of persons with dementia.

Claudia Drossel, PhD, received her PhD in experimental psychology in 2004 from Temple University, with a specialization in the organization of learning as well as functional and contextual approaches to affect, behavior, and cognition. She currently is a doctoral candidate in the University of Nevada, Reno's clinical gerontology program, where she focuses on researching, practicing, and disseminating the contextual approach to dementia care.

From 2005 through 2010, Dr. Drossel was associate director of the Nevada Caregiver Support Center, a state-funded, evidence-based, consumer-directed service program for individuals with dementia and their families, recognized in June 2008 by the U.S. Administration on Aging as a Program Champion.

Dr. Drossel has developed and conducted statewide professional trainings for dementia care providers and has implemented group interventions for family caregivers to remove barriers to evidence-based dementia care practices. She has also coauthored geropsychological and general publications on contextual approaches to behavior.

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