Practical information for caregivers of patients with
Newswise — Dr. Martha
Sparks, an associate professor at the University of Southern
Indiana (USI), will share her perspective of Alzheimer’s
disease with students in two courses developed for 2006
spring semester. The first is an online Alzheimer’s
certification course, a course she believes is one of a few
such courses offered online. It is for people practicing in
the field. Participants will be certified to deal with
Alzheimer’s, and they will be able to educate fellow
employees in nursing home or assisted living facilities.
The second course, a
three-hour undergraduate online course, deals with assessing
the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, knowing what to expect
from the disease, and managing and knowing how to deal with
the disease’s symptoms.
More than 20 years ago,
Dr. Martha Sparks’ mother-in-law was diagnosed with
In 1993, her husband was diagnosed with the same disease;
seven years later, her father – who also suffered from
Alzheimer’s – came to live with her, putting her in a
position to care for two Alzheimer’s patients at the same
“Living with two people with Alzheimer’s is a good reason to
keep learning about the disease,” Sparks said. “It gives you
a new perspective.”
“I want to help give a
feeling of the illness, and not just cognitive information
about it,” Dr. Sparks said. “If we can understand what to
expect, and know why we see the behavior, then our emotions
don’t get quite so involved, and we can use a more practical
approach to caring for the patient.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a
subject Dr. Sparks knows plenty about. Apart from her
personal experiences, Dr. Sparks has been doing workshops on
Alzheimer’s since 1991, and developed a gerontology program
at USI in 1999.
She gave a presentation
about the perceptions of caregivers of persons with
Alzheimer’s disease at the Oxford Round Table for Successful
Aging in August 2005. The Oxford Round Table is held at St.
Anne’s College in the University of Oxford, England. She
holds a Ph.D. from University of Texas.
Dr. Sparks developed the course with an $18,000 grant from
the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education. The grant
program supports development of educational content
delivered via technology.