Issue 24
Communicating with People Living with Dementia
As we age, our chances of having contact with people living with dementia increase. The Alzheimer's Association defines dementia as a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia is caused by abnormal brain cells. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected. 
Although reality is “the world of things as they actually exist,” everybody does not perceive reality in the same way. Interacting with a person living with dementia can be confusing in terms of their perceptions of reality. Having volunteered in Detroit nursing homes for many years as a hospice volunteer, I have noticed that some people feel the need to have the person living with dementia guess who they are when they visit them. They greet them asking, "Who am I?' while hoping the person will say their name correctly. They are disappointed when the wrong answer is given, even though they know the person has dementia. I find this response troubling because greeting anyone with a name test can be problematic. Just think of all the times people without dementia can't remember people's names. It's actually quite common.
With that in mind, I decided to write about this on my blog to give people a better understanding of the role they can play when interacting with people living with dementia. There is no one way of interacting. Finding what works for a particular person can be very challenging, particularly regarding the degree of dementia that exists. My personal focus has always been on creating pleasant experiences whenever possible. I liken it to creating a good movie that can be reflected on pleasantly by the actors and viewers later.

For more information on this topic, including one example explaining how I handled a volunteer experience personally, I invite you to read my blog post at

Happy endings,
Frances Shani Parker
Frances Shani Parker is a long-standing board member of the Institute of Gerontology. Her book, Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions at online and offline booksellers. Learn more about Frances' work at
A Special Site for Caregivers
Kanu "KC" Mehta has been caring full-time for his wife, Sumi, since she was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. We've shared many of KC's journal entries and insights over the past year.

We're happy to announce that KC now has his own website.

Launched on Sumi's birthday (May 8, 2021), MyJourneyWith contains resources, KC's caregiving story, tips to help caregivers, and media interviews. If you've ever felt alone and unheard as you give care to a loved one with dementia, a visit to this website will affirm how valuable you truly are.
Were You Scammed?

SAFE Counseling Could Help

Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment (SAFE) provides free financial coaching to older adults and caregivers to help them manage money securely and accurately. If you've been a victim of fraud or exploitation let SAFE help you try to recover your money.

Schedule an appointment with Program Director LaToya Hall by phone or computer now: [email protected] or 313-664-2608. Assistance is safe, confidential and free. Brochure

Worried you might be vulnerable to financial exploitation?

Events & Activities

From the University of Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center

Live Well
Wellness is nurturing balance in our lives: mind, body and spirit. It is practicing the ability to bring calm awareness to all that we do. The goal of Live Well programs at the Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center is to help caregivers and patients lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Balance, peace and self-care are an integral part of the center's vision. Learn more HERE.

Free Virtual Programs for Caregivers
Henry Ford’s C.A.R.E. Program provides virtual support for family caregivers and the community. The program offers a variety of FREE classes to help you — the caregiver — and the person you care for. Topics include:

  • Self-Care
  • Low-Cost Strategies to Improve Independence
  • Caring for a Veteran, and more.

It's called the VSED option — the refusal to eat or drink. The goal is to hasten death and it's perfectly legal.

The cost of aging in America, specifically for middle-income earners, has been spiraling out of control for years.
This very special Lunch & Learn features Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State and a national expert in dementia, depression, financial vulnerability, and other critical issues that affect us as we age.

You must RSVP to attend. Call 248-509-4357 or email [email protected]
Participate in Research
Impacts of Climate Change, Changing Natural Environments, and Water and Housing Concerns of Older Detroiters 

Volunteers Wanted
The Wayne State University School of Social Work would like to talk to any older adult, age 55 plus, living in the city of Detroit about their perceptions and experiences with these environmental and housing issues.  

You have four options to participate:
  1. Online Survey: Complete survey now at this link
  2. Phone Survey
  3. Interview over the phone or Zoom 
  4. Participate in a focus group over Zoom 

Please contact Evan Villeneuve at 313-332-8267 or [email protected] to arrange for a phone survey, a longer individual interview or to participate in an online focus group.

Survey participants will be entered into a drawing for a $50 dollar gift card.
Individual interview participants will receive a $40 dollar gift card.
Focus group participants will receive a $30 dollar gift card.