My first encounter with dementia was in 1959 when I visited the local private mental asylum. I went every Sunday afternoon to spend time with a delightful farmer of 70 years whose family was unable to cope with his bizarre behaviour.
I became very attached to him and looked forward to our weekly meetings. It was very upsetting watching him deteriorate and turning into a ‘zombie’ through the drug ‘coshing’ he was receiving.
My first real experience of grief was the week when the Doctor told me George had died. Even now it is still easy to relive those feelings.
As I was leaving the hospital the Doctor told me that I had been ‘the light in George’s life. He was a different person after your visits’. It was then that I finally appreciated the lesson from this experience.
I was 20 years old and have since then spent most of my life gaining expertise in the Dementia field. This is through university, clinical and organizational experience.
Believe me, I have been beating around many bushes and sunk into many verbal swamps!
What is truly astounding is that, for all my ‘head full of isms’, the analysis of my time with George in 1959 condenses into DEMENTIA SENSE AS OPPOSED TO COMMON SENSE.
Unique treatment for unique people
No one can judge us, and no one can tell us what is best for the person for whom we care. NO ONE. It is VITAL that individuality is fully recognized with dementia as the person we care for is UNIQUE. Copycat solutions to general diagnoses most frequently exacerbate abnormal behaviour.
In other words, so-called experts who prescribe without knowing the person CANNOT tune into their state of mind. Their expertise is based on guessing something based on the information they have gained from ANOTHER person’s circumstances. They cannot know!
I visit elderly people dosed up with sedatives and family members completely in the dark about what they can do. All they are told is to follow instructions to make sure ‘he takes his pills and keep an eye on him’. They wait for the next visit, being no wiser and feeling despair about the future.
I have many memories of home visits where incensed family carers are desperate to find some way of managing the daily challenges of bizarre outbursts.
The EXTREMELY difficult task family members must take on, starts when they come to understand that their everyday, normal inter personal habits of behaviour are, more than likely, CAUSING problems.
In the vast majority of cases, where we have explored their “normal” mannerisms, I am pleased to report that the NEW insight is greeted with ‘ you were SO right, if only I had been doing this from the beginning
We have to face self-development with Dementia Sense in order to master the challenges presented to us. This can only improve the behaviour of people we care for, who are experiencing some form of dementia.
*Conducting Well-Being With Dementia in the Family.