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Extension Adds Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Resources

Montana State University Extension has added resources to help young children and adults understand the changes that may occur in an older adult because of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of those newly developed resources include recommended practices for approaching the topic with children.

“When adults have knowledge and resources about Alzheimer’s, they can positively influence the social- emotional well-being of children who may be experiencing a relative or neighbor with Alzheimer’s,” said Jennifer Munter, a graduate student in MSU’s College of Education, Health and Human Development. “Stronger relationships can be fostered among multigenerational families when they realize Alzheimer’s is a disease and not a normal part of aging.”

Munter, who is also the assistant director of MSU Extension’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, added that when adults take the time to engage in learning activities like reading aloud with a child, it can increase learning and awareness and decrease fear around the topic.

Reading with Children

To complement a series of storybooks about Alzheimer’s that are also available through MSU Extension, Munter and MSU Extension family economics specialist Marsha Goetting developed a set of general guidelines for reading with children. They include: Stick to a schedule. A schedule helps children set expectations and allows them to see reading as an enjoyable part of each day. A consistent time to read together can show the importance of quality time with one another. Identify a time when you won’t be distracted and times that are consistently free around a child’s school schedule. Consider distractions or times of day when children may be tired or less interested.

As you read, keep the child involved. This will allow children to build mental pictures of what they hear. Encourage them to respond to the story, express their thoughts and ask questions. As the reader, it allows you to point out important parts of the story, while supporting reading and language skills.

Ask questions while you read. For example, “What just happened?” “What do you think is going to happen next?” Another useful approach is to allow the child to turn the pages. If repeat phrases occur in the book, let the child recite them.

Answer any questions the child asks during and after the story. This supports more in-depth learning and allows them to better understand the main story concepts. If you cannot answer their questions, look up the answer together or follow up with the child later. Answering a child’s questions will foster curiosity, Munter said.

If the child enjoys the story, read it multiple times. Repetition helps in learning and supports the child’s understanding of stories. It also helps build their reading and language skills and is a normal part of their development. They may notice different things each time they listen.

A fact sheet outlining recommended practices when reading to a child is available at https://www.montana. edu/extension/alzheimers/ alzheimertraining/communitytrainingsession/ handouts/ reccommendedpractices. html.

How to receive a free Alzheimer’s storybook MSU Extension Alzheimer’s storybooks are available for free by visiting www. alzheimers/ and clicking on “Order Form for Free Storybook.” Fill out the form and enter the promotional code “Alzheimer’s Storybook 1.”

Included with the free book will be a reading guide and two fact sheets, one about how to choose an appropriate book and one that outlines recommended reading practices.

Readers who do not have computer access can send their name, address, and the promotional code above to Marsha Goetting, PO Box 172800, Bozeman MT 59717. Or they may call 406-9943511.

Funding for the storybooks came from AARP Montana and the Montana Geriatric Education Center at the University of Montana. Members of the Montana Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Workgroup offered suggestions on the reading guides for the storybooks.

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