Every so often a story comes along that not only shines a light on the reality of living with dementia but also demonstrates that a little compassion goes a long, long way.
I am, of course, referring to the tale of Yvonne Salomon, 61, and her family, who made headlines recently after Sainsbury’s, Mrs Salomon’s employer, kept her on despite her growing illness. In fact, the supermarket not only made accommodations for her health by re-examining her role, but they also acted with compassion, decency and honesty.
Such kindnesses enabled Mrs Salomon to work for as long as she was able to. Sadly, like many others who live with dementia, she is now no longer healthy enough to continue working – and so having been with the Kenton store five years completed her final day last week. Her son Doron Salomon, 29, reached out on Twitter to Sainsbury’s to thank them again for their consideration, as well as highlighting a simple fact: we are all useful in one way or another!
No matter how limited your physical or mental ability there is always something you can do to help. Sainsbury’s were even kind enough to create a special role for Yvonne, cleaning their tote boxes something which Doron explained gave his mother ‘ a sense of pride and self-worth’.
Scientific research has shown that those living with dementia do much better when they receive plenty of social interaction, be it through friends, family or in Yvonne’s case her workmates. Too many people automatically dismiss individuals for being old, ill or incapable especially in the world of work and that attitude needs to change.
If you don’t believe me, just watch the ageist comments in the opening minutes of The Intern! The film stars Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro and explores what happens when an elderly widower goes to work at a huge company.
Surely we should be learning from those with added life experience, listening to the stories of the past to strive for a better future? Had Sainsbury’s taken the official route Yvonne would have had to stop working much earlier. Indeed, she had already undergone a medical exam in October that stated she should no longer be employed on health grounds.
Of course, it’s vital that we take medical advice into account and if you’re considering scaling back your commitments, then do please speak to your doctor first. However, by just making a few simple adjustments you’d be surprised by what can be arranged so that people with dementia can remain part of their communities.
Social isolation isn’t fun for anyone, no matter how old we are, but imagine how it feels for those who may be confused, frightened or worried about their future. All companies should consider their responsibilities towards their employees, especially older members of staff, and work with them and their families to ensure a safe, happy workplace for everyone concerned.
While living with dementia certainly has its challenges, it isn’t a sprint but a marathon and with the right understanding, support and care life is wholly enjoyable. Just like with other neurological conditions we need to remove the stigma attached to dementia, it isn’t ‘what happens when you get old’ it’s a horrendous disease that can be treated.
There is no shame in developing the condition. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Society one in three of us will get dementia at some point. You aren’t stupid or silly if you have the condition, and help is out there if you’re worried about your memory, sense of balance or ability to retain information. It’s beyond brilliant what Sainsbury’s have done for Mrs Salomon and her family but why are they the exception rather than the rule?