Hello to all of the readers at the DC, I was interviewed back in February by Kirsty and you can read this article here.
I have now joined the writing team and will be talking all things dementia on a monthly basis! Thank you for having me!
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There are many reasons why it can be difficult to take a person with dementia out somewhere, especially out in public. A person with dementia may react in a certain atypical way that can result in negative or misunderstood reactions from the general public.
Some aspects to consider may include but are not limited to:
- Anxiety (mood changes)
I talk more about these points here:
As dementia advances, one forgets their loved ones, life events, physical ability, mental ability, maturity, healthcare, and how to do almost anything. The reason individuals with dementia end up with physical disabilities or are unable to undertake simpler tasks such as feeding themselves is due to their memory loss. An example of advanced dementia would be someone who has forgotten how to walk and how to use their motor skills.
The reason they eventually become nonverbal or have a speech impairment is that they eventually forget how to talk. This does not mean that someone doesn’t have feelings or emotions, so it is important to bear this in mind.
Emotions that cannot be expressed verbally, could result in one yelling, crying loudly, or expressing their excitement in an atypical way possibly causing an alarmed reaction from the general public. If others aren’t aware that someone has dementia or even what dementia is, this would not be behaviour someone else would understand.
People with dementia may be considered ‘immature’, more so than the average senior adult due to the memory loss caused by dementia, they basically forget how to behave in what is considered an “age-appropriate manner”. For example, people with dementia can suddenly get upset or angry easily for no reason; if they suddenly get upset or angry out in public, the general public might stare at this person or say that they are disturbing their peace even though they are not disturbing them intentionally.
There are several things to keep in mind when assisting a person with dementia. While of course disabilities do not define any person, it still needs to be remembered that the mental and physical handicaps of individuals with dementia are severe, resulting in them needing assistance.
Mobility & Eating
When one has physical limitations, they will, of course, need to use a walker or wheelchair; if they are in a wheelchair they will most likely need someone to wheel them around in their chair to help them travel. If their physical handicaps are so severe to the point where they can’t feed themselves independently, they will need someone to feed them.
Should someone still be able to walk, wandering could be an issue. Wandering in dementia is very common and can be dangerous, even fatal. Purpose built spaces offer locked ‘safe’ areas or ‘trackers’ so that people don’t get lost. there may even be clear signage to assist those in earlier stage dementia.
Challenging behaviour can occur in those with dementia. If their challenging behaviour is screaming and crying loudly or just crying, then instead of telling them to “stop”, they need to be comforted until they are calm which should end the screaming and try to get their mind focused on something positive. If they are angry, you can try to do those same exact things. If their challenging behaviour is them saying not nice or negative things, then change the subject or if you can tell that they are about to say something negative, distract them and get their mind focused on something positive.
Distractions could include: having a positive conversation, doing any fun activity with them that they have the ability to participate in and enjoy, or showing them pictures.
If a person with dementia is scared or concerned, reassure them that they are okay. In order to try to prevent individuals with dementia from having fear or feeling worried, make sure to make them aware of activities, events, and any transitions beforehand.
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During my experience volunteering in a dementia unit and through having a grandfather who had dementia, I used most of these techniques whenever I was helping my Pop or the patients with dementia when they were expressing negative emotions or challenging behaviours and they usually worked successfully. One of the main things to keep in mind when caregiving for individuals with dementia is supervision. Just like in individuals with autism, elopement is very common in individuals with dementia, so it is very important that the nurses, caregivers, and/or relatives are supervising them at all times so that they always know where they are in case they attempt to wander. All of these things are very important to keep in mind when caregiving for a person with dementia.
People may not understand the needs or differences of people with dementia for various reasons. If they don’t know the person with dementia, they may not know the full story of what is going on or their disability could be invisible depending on which stage of dementia they are in, which could be the cause of misunderstanding.
Where it can be challenging to take someone with dementia out, it is important to remember that it’s still enjoyable for anyone to have a change of scenery and fresh air. We encourage those who can, to still go out with loved ones. There are dementia friendly spaces and we at the Dementia Cafe understand better than anyone the importance of purpose built.
Images: Live In Carer Website
Featured Image: Unforgettable