See the person, not the condition!
Friday 24th May 2019
How our children continue to teach us life lessons every day.
It's interesting really. When we understand Dementia and the stigma that it comes with, we only seem to see the person with their illness at the front of our mind.
But why is that?
These people are full of character, personality and incredible stories. They each have individual needs and wants, just like everyone else. We all love the same, each walk the same earth, each breathes the same air and drink the same water.
And still, we are all guilty of seeing their vulnerability first.
What happens if we see their strength first? Their courage? Their memories and their tales?
Just like the youth of today, we can do our best to really explore and encourage the person behind the Dementia to shine bright - and that's the beauty of the curious children in our lives.
Alzheimer's Society celebrated Dementia Awareness Week by introducing the old and the new to meet on the same path. With children as young as 5 asking burning questions about the lives they've lived and the memories they cherish, and the elderly beaming with pride as they share their stories.
The time they spend together is magical, as these children see the person for who they are - and not for the condition. The challenges of living with Dementia are left at the door as they have a loving conversation about what life really means for these two generations.
"Can you still kiss when you have Dementia?", one boy asks. "Oh yes!".
Having Dementia is often described as a number of losses, one after the other, so with this in mind, it's even more important to understand the person's feelings and experiences are down to more than just the condition itself. When providing care for your loved one, there are two essential aspects that you'll want to give - and that's safety and smiles!
To do so is fairly straight forward...
Independence - It may seem natural for you to want to do everything for your loved one, but this can leave them feeling completely reliant and at a loose end. They might even wish that they could do these things for themselves, so let them. Or, simply ask to do it together!
Communicate - Conversation can be harder for people living with Dementia, and how we communicate is a vital part of living well. Starting with things like their interests, their memories, stories they have, what they would like to do in the future - a trip to the zoo or a walk around a nice city. Talk about photos, objects and activities; and always, always include them in every conversation to avoid that feeling of isolation.
Mindfulness - The key message throughout is to see the person and not their condition, but It's important that we always stay mindful of the way we talk to our loved ones that are living with Dementia, as we're here to make them smile and stay shining. So, things like "I've just told you that", "remember when...", or "do you recognise me?" can all feel incredibly overwhelming, so instead approach it differently... be patient, polite, warm, comforting, introduce yourself as you would normally - stay mindful.
(Told you it was straight forward), care for your loved one in a way that you would care for any loved one. Adopt the curiosity and innocence of our young generation and ask those questions about their lives and how they are doing.
Let's start putting their ability ahead of anything, rather than their ability before everything.
Break the ice. And, most of all, see the person and not the condition!
Tina & Claire Westlake
P.S - To enjoy the video from Alzheimer's Society, click here.