During this Dementia Action Week (21 – 27 September), I would like to reflect on “how” we can recognise and encourage the potential of people living with advanced dementia.
When I am educating and supporting families and care partners in working with a person living with dementia, often their questions are around the “how” of the process rather than the why, and in every instance, it is individual to that person, depending on their life experience, their needs and their choices of how the person likes to communicate.
The story I am about to tell you is a powerful one of patience and trust, enabling the person with dementia to realise their full potential, with gentle encouragement from us as their supportive partners.
Margaret (not her real name) is a lady living with advanced dementia. Her words and sentences are becoming shorter, as is her attention to detail.
We have been working together for some time and have formed a very trusting relationship. She tells me that she enjoys my company because I “give her time to think”
When we work together, we often talk about her younger days when she used to enjoy dancing.
My questions to her “What was your favourite dance?”
Her response “Oh… any ones”
I then expand her thinking by offering choices of dances that I knew she used to enjoy “Was it a waltz or the jive?”
From this, excitedly would be the response “Oh! The jive!”, and then she would go on to tell me of how her husband used to swing her around the floor as soon as the music started and they would dance all night (making dancing gestures), giving her the opportunity to reminisce and feel all the good feelings that used to come with her dancing and being in love.
And then last week, something magical happened!
We went through the same questions, BUT I received a direct answer!
When asked “What was your favourite dance?, the response was “The Gay Gordon!”
Well, I had never heard of this dance, so we Googled and YouTube’d it and watched it together. The smile on Margaret’s face was a delight to behold, and the hug that came after was even more rewarding!
If we can enable the people living with dementia the time and opportunity to expand their thinking, reminisce and be truly in the moment, it is amazing the richness of the conversations and actions that follow.
In this Dementia awareness week, truly take time to spend with your loved one – really listen and give them the time to answer – you will be surprised at the outcomes.
For more support, hints and tips, or assistance call Bianca on 08 6555 7785