Working with Trauma in Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Oct 25, 2021

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Untreated and unresolved trauma is now considered to be a risk factor and contributor to Alzheimer’s dementia. 

Trauma can be defined as any event that alters how we process, react to, and recall memories, by overwhelming the individual’s central nervous system. Additionally, trauma is defined as any event in which a person feels helpless and unsafe. It is not only an occurrence that happened in the past; instead, trauma is an event that leaves an imprint upon the body and the brain which persists to the present day.

Our guest for this episode, Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk completed her PhD in Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology in the UK , and Fellowships in Neuropsychology.  She has dedicated her career to studying novel treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease and sees trauma as a root cause of many illnesses. She is the author of several peer reviewed articles. Dr Rusk co-founded the Brain and Behavior Clinic over 25 years ago and currently directs the Healthy Brain Program in Colorado.

In this Episode You Will Learn:

4:20 – Defining trauma through reflecting on a patient story 

7:26 – How trauma influences more than just the brain 

16:06 – A trauma informed approach to treating neuro degeneration 

21:50 – Identifying cognitive decline symptoms in patients who struggle with other mental illnesses or trauma 

33:24 – Classic signs of unresolved trauma in the older generations 

42:44 – How to deal with unresolved trauma in someone before it becomes cognitive decline 

56:12 – How long does it take to see improvement when working with trauma-informed techniques? 


Strategies to improve the brain and nervous system:

  • traditional talk therapy (eg with a psychologist)
  • Simple deep breathing
  • dance and movement
  • waling
  • Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga
  • other coregulatory exercises is a resource for people struggling with the stressors and traumas. It includes:

  • opportunities for social connection/coregulation (including on-line)
  • craft projects
  • walking

For more many more tools and strategies visit


To learn more about the BrainFit program at Kemper Cognitive Wellness visit


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