For Day 5 of our series of ‘walk in my shoes’ blogposts, looking at dementia from different perspectives, we have a great contribution from Lead Senior Support Worker, Belinda Jones. Belinda is Dementia Carer of the Year and has a lot of very practical ideas to share.
I love the term “Dementia Detectives” – it sums up so many things…
‘Remember the person’ is the Alzheimer Society’s chosen theme for this year’s dementia awareness week and, by now, probably all the best dementia care providers rightly emphasise the importance of knowing the person and their life story.
When we deliver dementia training to our team members we often talk about becoming ‘dementia detectives’, learning to piece together the phrases, signals and behaviour of residents and relate them to important life events and relationships for each individual.
An ability to read these signals and understand the indicators of wellbeing and tension make it easier for carers to promote a positive frame of mind and help residents move to a better place when they are distressed. We believe that the person living with dementia is the expert and we need to take our lead from that person.
Equally important to us though, are all the things we don’t know and the appreciation that residents continue to have an emotional life in the present. We believe it is just as important to ’take people as we find them’ and not focus exclusively on the past.
Much of caring is simply about relating to people ‘person to person’ and reaching out to them in the here and now – a smile, affection and good humour all help to ensure quality of life today and tomorrow. We often describe it as ‘a long goodbye, with lots and lots of hellos.’
Similarly, activities that ‘go with the flow’ are often the most successful – listening to music, dancing, singing, sharing in simple games.
As many people have observed, it’s often easier for people who haven’t known the person with dementia in the past to relate to them today and to ‘step into their world’. Our advice to loved ones is to take time to get to know your new mum or dad and you can still celebrate the wonder of who the person is today.
Belinda Jones is lead senior support worker at Belong Crewe and won Dementia Carer of the Year in the national Great British Care Awards 2011. She trains employees across all Belong Villages in the North West of England and runs workshops for members of the public at Belong Crewe. www.belong.org.uk