Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease 

The purpose of this course is to familiarize the learner with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. This course engages learners in learning about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, and conditions and diseases that may cause irreversible dementia. Information about the conditions and disorders that may mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and the characteristics and stages of dementia-related diseases is presented.


Hours: 1.00


Certificates provided by accrediting body (1 Match)

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (ALL Direct Care Workers)


Relias Learning, LLC is approved as a Curriculum Developer by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. This activity is approved for 1.00 contact hours for all WA State Direct Care Workers. Training Provider Code: WA0624. CE Approval Code: CO1933564

Course Details

Course Code: REL-PAC-0-DEME218
Hours: 1
Type: Online Course
Content Expiration Date: 6/30/2022
Learning Objectives:
Recognize facts about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Explain how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain.
Distinguish between cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, and normal aging.
Identify conditions and diseases that may cause irreversible dementia.
List conditions or disorders that may mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recognize the stages and characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.


  1. Introduction

    1. United States demographics related to Alzheimer’s disease

    2. Course overview

      1. Case study – Harold

      2. Checkpoint: Question (multiple choice)

  2. Understanding Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders

    1. What is dementia?

      1. General term for loss of memory and other mental abilities

      2. Severe enough to interfere with daily life and functioning

      3. Caused by physical changes in the brain

    2. Dementia - an umbrella term

      1. Normal aging vs. not normal aging

        1. Memory

        2. Orientation

        3. Perception

        4. Concentration

        5. Language

          1. Learning Engagement Activity: Video, Language changes, M. Villanueva, PsyD (1:22 minutes)

        6. Task sequencing

        7. Judgement

        8. Checkpoint: Questions – choose whether the statement reflects normal vs. not normal aging

        9. Checkpoint – case student with questions, revisiting Harold

    3. Learning Engagement Activity: Video, Changes in the brain, memory centers, J. Quinn MD (2:53 minutes)

      1. Changes in the brain

        1. Structural

        2. Cellular

        3. Visual of normal brain vs. abnormal brain

        4. Learning Engagement Activity: Video, The brain with Alzheimer’s disease, J. Beedle, BSN RN (1:15 minutes)

      2. How the brain works

        1. Three main parts, four lobes

        2. Checkpoint: Matching exercise

        3. Learning Engagement Activity: Video, Alzheimer’s disease, brain changes, M. Villanueva PsyD (1:12 minutes)

        4. Hippocampus and amygdala

        5. Brain nourished by rich network of blood vessels

        6. Nerve cell anatomy and function

        7. Checkpoint: Matching exercise

      3. How Alzheimer’s disease effects the brain at a basic level

        1. Most common type of dementia

        2. Chemical and structural changes in brain

        3. Affects memory, learning and whole body

        4. At least two parts of the brain are dying at one time

        5. It’s progressive and will get worse

    4. Related disorders

      1. Other dementia types or mixed dementias

        1. More than one type of dementia may occur in the brain

      2. Vascular dementia

        1. Occurs from blood vessel damage, bleeding, or damage leading to strokes

        2. Location, number, and size of the brain injury determine how thinking and function are affected

      3. Dementia with Lewy bodies

        1. Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein in the brain

        2. Symptoms may include sleep disturbance, visual hallucinations, gait imbalance, or other movement disorder

      4. Frontotemporal dementia

        1. Generally, develops at a younger age (at about age 60), and individuals survive for fewer years than with Alzheimer’s disease

        2. Typical symptoms include changes in personality, behavior, and difficulty with language

      5. Other dementia types

        1. Dementia with Parkinson’s like symptoms

          1. Deep brain degeneration

          2. Symptoms like dementia with Lewy Body

        2. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

          1. Memory disorder caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, often associated with alcohol use

          2. Syndrome has two phases

      6. Case study – Ron, head injuries and dementia

    5. Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)

      1. Genetic: Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome

      2. Acquired: head injuries, illness, poisoning/toxicity

      3. Early and later signs of cognitive decline

    6. Checkpoint: Match the symptoms and features with type of dementia

    7. Learning Engagement Activity: Video: What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? (2:45 minutes)

  3. Conditions and disorders that may mimic dementia

    1. Medications

      1. Classes of drugs that may cause cognitive impairment

      2. Medication reviews

    2. Problems with vision and hearing

    3. Problems with sleep

    4. Pain

    5. Medical conditions

      1. Thyroid conditions

      2. Vitamin deficiency

      3. Disorders of the heart and lung

      4. Infections

      5. Diabetes

      6. Depression

      7. Delirium

      8. Checkpoint: Matching exercise

  4. Characteristics and stages of Alzheimer’s disease

    1. Three general stages – symptoms worsen over time

      1. Life expectancy: 4-8 years after diagnosis, but person can live up to 20 years

      2. Mild (early-stage) 2-4 years

        1. Close friends or family notice changes in memory or concentration

        2. May see problems with word finding, planning, and organizing

      3. Moderate (middle-stage) – longest stage

        1. Symptoms are now more noticeable to others outside the family

        2. Forgetfulness, mood changes, confusion, problems with orientation and reasoning

        3. Loss of control with bowel and bladder

        4. Changes in sleep patterns, personality, and behaviors

      4. Severe (late-stage) – final stage, several weeks to years

        1. Need assistance with daily activities and personal care

        2. Increasing loss of awareness or surroundings

        3. Significant changes in physical abilities

        4. Increasing difficulties in communication

        5. Vulnerable to infections

  5. Summary

Instructor: Cynthia McDaniel, MSN, RN
Cynthia McDaniel MSN RN, is a nurse and administrative consultant in long term care. She is the CEO of ElderWise Inc, a senior living consulting and education group. Cynthia has worked as a nurse consultant for the States of Oregon and Washington,  a geriatric care manager, a regional director of clinical operations for a senior living company, and an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing. Her research in assisted living focused on the characteristics of residents in assisted living communities and the role of the nurse in assisted living. Cynthia holds a Master's of Science in Nursing from Gonzaga University in nursing education. She is a Fellow of the Sigma Theta Tau/John A. Hartford Foundation Geriatric Nursing Leadership Academy.  Disclosure: Cynthia McDaniel, MSN, RN has declared that no conflict of interest, Relevant Financial Relationship or Relevant Non-Financial Relationship exists.
Instructor: Jennifer Mensik, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Jennifer S. Mensik, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN is currently the Division Director of Care Management at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland Oregon and an instructor for Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Jennifer previously served as vice president for CE Programming at OnCourse Learning and currently serves as a Consultant for OnCourse Learning. Dr. Mensik earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of Arizona College of Nursing with a major focus in health systems and a minor in public administration from the Eller College of Management. Disclosure: Jennifer Mensik, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN has declared that no conflict of interest, Relevant Financial Relationship or Relevant Non-Financial Relationship exists.
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Course Delivery Method and Format
Asynchronous/Online Distance Learning; please see certificate details for specifics on delivery format.
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