Benefits of Integrating Dementia Education into the Curriculum for Students

Interactive classroom session on dementia awareness, highlighting the importance of educating young students about brain health.

Dementia is one of the seven most frequent causes of death in the world and a potent cause of disability and dependency among older adults in their later lives. These impacts are only bound to grow with people now living longer: estimates indicate that more than fifty million people were living with dementia in 2023, and this number will likely double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

Due to the progressive nature of this condition and the expanding number of people affected, the costs of care for this population will likely grow, and this calls for sustainable efforts towards not just combating the disease but also raising awareness around it.

Integrating dementia education into the curriculum is one of the most valuable ways to improve the available tools to fight this condition. Many benefits are likely to accrue from taking this radical step to ensure the vast majority of the population has a firm understanding of dementia, how it progresses, and possible ways to mitigate its impacts.

Change Attitudes Towards People with Dementia 

It is clear that as the general life expectancy increases, more people are likely to struggle with dementia in their later lives. Projections suggest more than 152 million people will be affected by dementia in the next twenty-five years. Investigations have also found that more than a third of children in elementary school have knowledge of a family member or other close person struggling with dementia but have little dementia knowledge of it and how to handle or behave towards such an individual.

Change attitudes towards people with dementia.

At the same time, assessments on their description of people with dementia have returned negative answers on how they describe people with dementia, such as ‘crazy’, “frustrating” and “annoying”. This trend is prevalent in the wider population, where people’s knowledge of dementia is limited, and many do not have any knowledge of practical ways to notice the disease or help people suffering from it. Integrating dementia education into the curriculum would have an invaluable role in changing the status quo. Sustained education efforts will equip children and other persons with a better understanding of this increasingly commonplace condition, possible causes, and better ways to reduce risks and exposure to it or even slow down the disease among those affected.

Reduce risks of dementia and improve healthy habits 

The role of education is not just to disseminate knowledge but instead to lead to lifelong learning and impart wisdom that could translate into the lives of learners and transform them in that process. Situating dementia education in the curriculum should yield benefits beyond just creating awareness and attitude changes: it would lower the risks of dementia for this disease over the long term.

child learning brain

As dementia prevalence rises, efforts should focus on prevention rather than treatment, slowing down the decline associated with this disease. After all, there is no definitive treatment for dementia, which further raises the value of reducing risks and preventing them in the first place.

In this process, dementia education would be valuable for informing learners and other stakeholders of the risks and impacts of this condition and some of the possible ways they can reduce their exposure over the long term. Such approaches can also be beneficial in slowing the progressive mental decline that characterizes the disease and improving well-being.

Integrating Dementia Education into the Curriculum to Facilitate Early Diagnosis and Treatment 

Even in the absence of a definitive cure for dementia, early diagnosis is still highly valued. Diagnosis in the early stages of dementia can make the difference between rapid decline and poor health in a few years and better overall health and quality of life for the patients. Educating the general population about dementia would break the stigma associated with this disease and allow more people to receive a timely diagnosis for this condition.

Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia

A timely diagnosis would lead to better planning and taking measures to slow the disease. Prompt diagnosis also means that patients and their loved ones have time to plan for their care and undertake activities that would slow down the progressive decline of the patients.

As things stand, dementia diagnosis often comes late when symptoms have become more overt, which implies that valuable time may already have been lost in the process when a slowdown in decline could have been more fruitful.

Better and Optimal Healthcare for Dementia Patients

Lastly, dementia education is likely to benefit the health fraternity as well. A well-educated population means a better understanding of the disease and greater participation in preventing and managing it. The education will help learners know what is good for their brain and overall health. So, they can include a diet that boosts their brain health and minimize the chances of developing dementia.

In addition, health professionals would immensely benefit from curriculum education on dementia. Currently, nurses and assistant nurses provide most of the dementia care services due to the shortage of qualified professionals. This is especially burdensome in situations where patients require specialized care. Embedding dementia education in the curriculum would also require this to be deeply embedded in the curriculum for health professionals.

It would be crucial to ensure that all health professionals attending to dementia patients have the requisite knowledge and skills to undertake this job. This not only improves patient outcomes but also enhances employee satisfaction. Given the increasing prevalence of dementia, this would also be vital in ensuring the availability of sufficient labor to provide care in the coming years.

Dementia Healthcare

Conclusion 

Briefly, the integration of dementia education into the curriculum is a noble step that is long overdue. It results from the numerous benefits likely to accrue following the systematic implementation of this process. This would not only ensure that there is widespread awareness of the disease and its risk factors but would also promote a proactive approach to risk management among the population. Such education would also be crucial in changing people’s attitudes towards those struggling with dementia and ensuring early diagnosis for those at risk.

Resources

Rasmussen, B., Andersen, P., Warldoff, F., & Berg-Beckhoff, G. (2023). Effectiveness of dementia education for professional care staff and factors influencing staff-related outcomes: an overview of systematic reviews. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 142. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020748923000342

Ritchie, L., Henderson-Bone, S., Gregory, A., & Jenkins, N. (2023). Dementia education in a primary school classroom: A pedagogical perspective. Dementia (London, England), 22(3), 477–492. https://doi.org/10.1177/14713012221149760

Smith, A. E., Kamm, G. L., Lai, S., Hull, M. J., Baker, J. R., Milte, R., Ratcliffe, J., Loetscher, T., & Keage, H. A. (2020). A RE-AIM analysis of an intergenerational dementia education program. Frontiers in Public Health, 8. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.00248/full

Isaac, M. G. E. K. N., Isaac, M. M., Farina, N., & Tabet, N. (2017). Knowledge and attitudes towards dementia in adolescent students. Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England), 26(5), 419–425. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2016.1207234

Baker, J. R., Jeon, Y. H., Goodenough, B., Low, L. F., Bryden, C., Hutchinson, K., & Richards, L. (2018). What do children need to know about dementia? The perspectives of children and people with personal experience of dementia. International psychogeriatrics, 30(5), 673–684. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics/article/what-do-children-need-to-know-about-dementia-the-perspectives-of-children-and-people-with-personal-experience-of-dementia/9B078B7C07C6D046C42F3A11F4303BF8

Baker, J. R., Goodenough, B., Jeon, Y. H., Bryden, C., Hutchinson, K., & Low, L. F. (2019). The Kids4Dementia education program is effective in improving children’s attitudes towards dementia. Dementia (London, England), 18(5), 1777–1789. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1471301217731385

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Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise, inspired by personal experiences and driven by her role as an advocate, founded Voise Foundation to improve the lives of those with dementia. As the foundation's key content creator and blog author, she draws on her deep understanding of the disease, advocating for respect, dignity, and creative therapy avenues such as VST Music© and other programs. Cherie's heartfelt writings, fueled by empathy, resonate with readers, offering insight and stirring action. Become a part of this journey and together with Cherie, let's make a meaningful impact in the world of dementia care.