A rainy Tuesday morning has just turned sunny, when Dimensions sits down with Dr. Rebecca Logsdon, co-director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s Education Core and research professor in the UW School of Nursing.
Dr. Logsdon wears an infectious smile. She’s been up early this morning and already walked Jake, her 13-year old mixed border collie-lab who would be 65 in human years. “He still thinks he’s a puppy,” adds Logsdon, a subtle indication that Logsdon believes practicing healthy habits improves one’s state of mind and quality of life, and that the adage applies to everyone, Jake included.
In the 25 years Logsdon has worked as a clinical psychologist, primarily with older adults, she says a lot has changed. She first came to the UW in 1986 as a post-doctoral fellow and worked with Drs. Linda Teri and Burton Reifler in the Geriatric and Family Services Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. At the time, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was often viewed as a “death sentence,” with little that could be done to improve the life of the diagnosed person. Today, much has changed. Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly viewed as a chronic illness a person lives with. Medications and psychosocial treatments have been developed to improve cognitive, behavioral, and emotional functioning in individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease. Recently lifestyle changes and healthy habits like physical exercise, good nutrition, maintaining social involvement, and staying engaged in cognitively stimulating activities have emerged as important to delaying the onset of dementia as well as improving quality of life throughout the course of the disease.
Logsdon’s clinical and research focus is on maintaining a good quality of life for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. With her colleagues, Dr. Linda Teri and Dr. Susan McCurry, she has conducted research on psychosocial treatments for depression, anxiety, agitation, sleep disturbances, and inactivity for individuals at all stages of dementia. Some of her most rewarding work, Logsdon says, is the work she does with community partners like the Alzheimer’s Association of Western & Central Washington, local senior centers, the Department of Social and Health Services, and adult day centers. These collaborations with community partners help ensure the research gets translated into practical applications, explains Logsdon.
When Logsdon first graduated with a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling, she worked for five years in Oklahoma City with young people who were mentally ill. After she went back to school for her doctoral training, she started working with older adults with cognitive impairments. She was impressed by the growing need for psychologists to work with these individuals and their families and by the difference that counseling, education, and support could make for them. When she had the opportunity to come to the UW for postdoctoral training with the ADRC, she jumped on the chance, and has been here ever since.
As a clinical psychologist, Logsdon can cite research to support the importance of balancing work and family responsibilities with mental and physical needs. Satisfying the latter needs gives a person the resilience and mental reserves for daily responsibilities. Logsdon points out she’s the same as everyone else; she finds it hard to schedule personal time between her other commitments.
But she knows the importance of balance, because she makes the time in her busy life to swim five days a week on a master’s swim team. She even competes in swim meets a few times a year, and in the summer, she can be found trying out her strokes on Lake Washington. When she’s not swimming, she may be out hiking, renewing mental reserves in the yoga she practices, or rejuvenating creative energies in the knitting projects she’s started.
Undoubtedly, Dr. Rebecca Logsdon is someone who practices what she preaches.