Discovery 2017: Respecting Selfhood in Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

A key theme in this year’s Discovery 2017, the 32nd Annual Alzheimer’s Regional Conference is selfhood in Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Learn more and register today.

By Keri Pollock

So often the discussion about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is narrowly focused on diagnosis and the losses attributed to disease.  But there are a growing number of practitioners that look at Alzheimer’s and the person diagnosed in a different way. They see the person as the unique individual she or he is, rather than as a “patient.”  This movement away from a traditional medical view chooses to take a holistic, person-centered view, and we are all the better for it.

A leader in this person-centered approach for over thirty-five years, Dr. Steven R. Sabat, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Georgetown University, has studied the cognitive and social abilities of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the moderate to later stages. Dr. Sabat has explored how understanding the person, his or her history, his or her selfhood (the quality that makes a person or thing different from others) and relationships, can be tremendously helpful in understanding the effects of dementia on the individual.

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The Alzheimer’s Association along with several community partners hosts programs for people living with dementia and their care partners to engage in social activities, form new relationships and strengthen the ones they have.


The main focus of his research has been the intact cognitive and social abilities of people living with Alzheimer’s, looking at:

  • what people are able to do, taking a strengths-based approach, as opposed to focusing on their losses
  • the subjective, or personal experience of having the disease. Exploring what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s disease, how it affects a person, and how the person is treated by others as a result of having been diagnosed
  • the ways in which communication between people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers may be enhanced and enriched through education and psychosocial (involving both psychological and social aspects) support

Dr. Sabat will be the keynote at this year’s Discovery 2017, the 32nd Annual Alzheimer’s Regional Conference sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter. On April 7, 2017 at the Washington State Convention Center, Dr. Sabat will open the conference with “Understanding People with Alzheimer’s Disease: A Bio-Psycho-Social Approach.” He will also facilitate a workshop entitled “Can People with Alzheimer’s Make New Memories?” and demonstrate that people in the moderate to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease can make new memories and need to be understood and treated with that in mind.

In addition to Sabat’s keynote and workshop, local knowledge experts will be presenting on a variety of topics in 14 additional workshops, including:

  • Lifestyle: Promoting Brain Health and Function with Exercise
  • Dementia Research: What’s on the Horizon?
  • Connecting and Empowering Persons with Dementia and Their Care Partners: How to Start Dementia-Friendly Programs in Your Community
  • Dementia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What’s the Connections?

In addition to the educational component of the conference, there will be a bookstore, exhibits and opportunities for networking.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are an unpaid family caregiver for a loved one, you qualify for a reduced registration fee of $85 (regular registration is $200). This includes snacks, a boxed lunch, informative exhibits, and a bookstore.

For Professionals, CE and CEU Credits are available.

Can’t make the conference but still want to hear Dr. Sabat? He’ll be speaking Downstairs at Town Hall Seattle on Thursday, April 6, at 7:00 PM, on “Understanding the Experience and Selfhood of People with Alzheimer’s Disease: Context is Key.”

Contributor Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care™ practice (geriatric care management) serving King, south Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties, and serves on the Discovery: Alzheimer’s Regional Conference planning committee, and co-chairs the UW Elder Friendly Futures Conference.

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