Stories of Hope for Families Facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia with Lisa Skinner

It is difficult to feel you have lost a loved one when they have no idea who you are. It is frustrating to watch them forget things they have known their entire lives. It is tough to watch them appear to fade away before your eyes. In today’s episode, we have a very informative conversation with Lisa Skinner, an expert in the behavioral aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. She has dedicated her career as a teacher, advisor, and public speaker to teaching people how to manage brain disorders efficiently. Lisa has worked as a community counselor, regional director of senior care facilities, trainer, lecturer, and private consultant for over 25 years, assisting hundreds of families and caregivers in understanding the overwhelming issues associated with brain disease. Also, she provides counter-intuitive methods and techniques to help people manage brain disease symptoms efficiently.

Starting the conversation,  Lisa shares her story of witnessing seven of her family members progress through the stages of a dementia-related illness until the end of their lives. The irony in her narrative is that, in addition to seven family members suffering from dementia, her 17 1/2-year-old cockapoo, Oliver, has been diagnosed with doggie dementia! Her first encounter with dementia occurred when she was a teenager, and her adoring grandmother began exhibiting some strange habits. She has shown various behaviors, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, all of which are symptoms of dementia. At the time, little was known about dementia. Having seen her loved ones going through struggles with dementia, she has made it her mission to be there for those going through the same ordeal.

Fast-forwarding 40 years, since 1996, Lisa has worked in the senior housing business, assisting thousands of families in understanding how to interact with a loved one who has dementia. She has established programming in memory care homes and taught employees in dementia care. Additionally, Lisa holds an administrator’s certification from the State of California’s Department of Social Services. While pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, she chose to focus on dementia-related illnesses and educate families on improving the quality of their relationships with their loved ones via education. While working in the aging care business, she became aware that there were still relatively few resources available on this issue, despite the critical need for families to understand it.

Throughout the conversation, she delves deeply into several facets of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, most notably how to engage with them with compassion and care. Also, she highlights that the most significant barrier for family members, carers, and those living with dementia is efficient communication. Moreover, she points out that it is a process of education, and it can be incredibly beneficial and bring joy to everyone’s life.

[00:24] Motivation in life – Lisa shares how her experience with her grandmother led her to choose to help people who suffer from brain diseases that cause dementia.

[15:21] Hear and Listen – Lisa emphasizes the importance of effective communication and the importance of equipping ourselves with the appropriate tools to communicate with persons suffering from mental illnesses. 

[21:40] Agree. Not Argue – Lisa explains how to deal with hallucinations and paranoia by sharing her own experiences.

[29:15] Stages of Dementia – Lisa discusses the many phases of dementia, the frequent symptoms associated with each stage, and the warning signals to consider. 

[38:37] Coverup – We discuss why it is not good to conceal the patient and disclose and engage with such situations.

[47:45] Professional Treatment – Lisa emphasizes the value of professional treatment for dementia and the social factors contributing to resistance to such medications. 

[55:47] Sam’s Story – Referencing a story from her book, Lisa discusses how altering one’s environment aided in lessening self-isolation.

[01:05:31] Impact of Covid – We explore the impact of Covid on individuals with brain diseases due to the increasing isolation. 

[01:12:39]  Anxiety and Depression – We discuss how anxiety and depression have exacerbated social problems and how to address them. 

[01:20:18] Stranger in the Mirror – Lisa explains what the Stranger in the mirror is, how it affects people with a brain disease, and many more aspects related to it.  

[01:27:03] Join Their Reality – By sharing her personal experience, Lisa emphasizes the need to accept and integrate the reality that people with mental illness encounter.

[01:36:08] Listen to the Clues – Lisa explains how assists people suffering from dementia by figuring out the clues giving numerous examples. 

[01:50:01] Cognitive Canine Dysfunction – Lisa describes how she learned her companion dog had dementia and talks about dementia in animals. 


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Mentioned in the episode:

Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost: Stories of Hope for Families Facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia:

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