You do not have to become an expert on the brain to be a good dementia health care worker. However, having a basic awareness of the brain’s functioning may help you to understand some of the difficulties a person with dementia is experiencing. It can also help to explain some of the behaviours you may find challenging and difficult to comprehend.
The level of damage taking place in the brain (‘neurological impairment’) will vary from one person to another depending on the type of dementia they have and the areas of the brain affected. A part of the brain severely damaged in one person may be left completely intact in another person, even though they both have dementia. This helps to explain why people with dementia vary so much in the ways they behave and in what they can and cannot do.
For example, a person may be able to play the piano well, long after forgetting the names of the pieces of music. This is because the memory needed to recall a sequence of physical movements is stored in a different area to that responsible for remembering facts such as names. Similarly, although a person may have difficulties with speaking, they may be able to sing or hum a favourite tune quite fluently. Again, this is because there are different parts of our brain responsible for speaking and for singing.
Below is an illustration of the side view of the outer layer of the brain (The cerebrum):
The cortex, or cerebrum, is made up of two hemispheres (or sides) connected by a band of tissue called the corpus callosum. These hemispheres control speech, intelligence, and memory. There are specific centres for specific functions; for example, the speech centre governs the ability to form sounds into meaningful words, phrases, etc. Left Hemisphere
The Left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. It controls speech, comprehension,...