Dementia workshop educates campus

Megan Behnke, News Writer

UW Oshkosh Community Education Outreach will be holding a three-part series called Dementia Touches Us All, which will address a variety of issues related to dementia, including its causes, symptoms, behaviors and more.

UWO Associate Director for the Center for Community Development, Engagement and Training Renee Rickert said the series was designed to support the growing need to help people with dementia and to allow them to thrive in our community.

“We also want those who care for and provide services to them to feel supported and comfortable in their interactions,” Rickert said.

Facilitator Trainer for the CCDET Gay Pustver said the training for the series focuses on a person-centered approach.

“Think about what this person is trying to communicate, not just that it’s weird or that you don’t understand it,” Pustver said. “This is an opportunity to get community members in to find out why they are here, what do they want to know, what kind of backgrounds do they have.”

CCDET trainer Brandi Davis said she hopes the workshops will encourage people to start regimens and go to the doctor for checkups.

“If they recognize something in themselves or their loved ones to go, ‘Maybe we do need to get a quick check-in with the doctor and see what’s going on,’” Davis said. “It could be something that’s reversible, side-effect or medication. Or they catch it early and say, ‘What do we need to put in place to maintain a longer quality of life?’”

Rickert said the workshop series will consist of three different topics: Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, Relating and Responding to People with Dementia and Managing Challenging Situations in Dementia.

“The first workshop explains the definitions and different types of dementia, the 10 most common symptoms of dementia versus normal signs of aging, risk factors, treatment potential, local sources and more,” Rickert said. “The second one is an interactive workshop which will utilize hands-on activities and scenarios that explain several common behaviors and offer best practices for successful communication. The last one will review person-centered approaches in order to fulfill the needs of people with dementia.”

Pustver said the community outreach is an offshoot of what’s already been going on for years.

Putsver said they focus on recruiting and retaining employees and also train caregivers on the Caregiver Law. They focus on misconduct and how to avoid it, as well as encourage caregivers to report abuse.

“We have a whole group of us that have been training these kinds of topics,” Putsver said. “From that we decided to reach out and do a community thing and market it to everybody.”

Davis said she hopes people will understand and take away some of the fear and myths they have about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“And they recognize that the person is still there,” Davis said. “Yes, they have this diagnosis, and they’re still the same person in a lot of ways. Understanding that contributes to how well their quality of life is and how well you interact with them as well.”

Rickert said the workshop series will provide additional information and resources that will help those attending to better understand dementia.

“It will also provide strategies for interacting with people living with dementia,” Rickert said.

Pustver said she hopes people will learn to recognize the common behaviors and symptoms of different kinds of dementia “ … and that they think about that person first and think about how it is,” Pustver said.

Davis said the elderly population is increasing so it’s better to understand Alzheimer’s and dementia so people are prepared.

“More people are living longer, and so the longer you live, the higher the chances you are going to have something like memory loss or a stroke that will result in dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Davis said. “We have to make sure we are aware and be prepared as a society to care for people because it’s going to double.”

The workshop series will take place throughout the next few months, with the next one being on May 7 and 8. To find out more about the workshops, specific times and when the workshops will be, visit