There are reams and reams of information about dementia available on the internet, but we believe that all this knowledge can be distilled down into two practical pointers that help produce good relationships with people with dementia.
1. Be a ‘dementia detective’
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.
2. Celebrate the person today
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.
You can read more about our approach to dementia, including designing buildings for people with dementia on our dementia expertise page.