You Can Make a Difference
Updated: Jan 29
Blog Post by Oran Aviv
If you have been following us, you know how much we try to raise the awareness that there are many people who are living fulfilling lives with dementia, and that we, as a community, can help people who have memory loss stay independent by being more Dementia Friendly.
There are many organizations around that the world that teach people how to become dementia friends, but recently I was introduced to the Dementia Friendly Canada site. This organization has found wonderful ways to teach how easy it is for each of us, whether at work or in a public setting, to help someone who is living with dementia stay independent and retain their dignity. I’ll be sharing some of their work in today’s blog.
Quiet Is Golden
Changes in hearing are one of the sensory changes that can affect many older adults and especially those who are living with dementia.
Most of us hear many sounds all day and often at the same time. We can talk to someone while the TV is playing because we can concentrate on the voice of the person and filter out the background noise of the TV. However, many older adults including those who are living with dementia can no longer filter out the background sounds. For them, listening to someone speak entails focusing much harder.
For someone living with dementia, background noise or music playing can make dining very difficult. Every time someone moves a chair or table can be just as irritating and awful for them as if every few minutes we would suddenly hear someone scratch their fingernails on a blackboard! Can you imagine trying to eat your meal when you never now when that shocking noise will suddenly be heard again?
If you have several people dining together, make sure to not carry on more than one conversation at the same time. It takes a lot of concentration to listen to one conversation. For someone living with dementia it is almost impossible to follow two conversations. I have seen many people withdraw by either closing their eyes or getting up and leaving the table due to frustration.
Dining can be so much better if there is a dementia friendly restaurant, or an area where someone can dine quietly without background music, too much noise or scarping chairs.
For someone living with dementia their processing of information is much slower. If we speak slowly and clearly, the person with memory loss will be able to follow what we are saying better and be able to process what we have said. Remember to also to be silent to allow time for the older person to gather their thoughts so they can answer. In this lovely video from Dementia Friendly Canada, you can see how easy it is to help someone living with dementia enjoy their meal out.
It doesn't take much to help an older person or someone living with dementia be able to enjoy having a meal out or eating with company if we learn how to help.
What Would You Do?
If you saw a tourist on the street who was looking at a map and looking confused, what would you do? Most of us would approach the person and ask if they needed some help to find their way. We would explain how to get to the place they were going. I have often been in this situation while traveling abroad and I’m always so thankful to the local who stopped to help. It also made me appreciate more the city or country I was visiting because I felt the people there were so friendly and helpful.
If you see an older person looking confused, you can help in the same fashion. This may happen on the street, in a building or on the bus. Just by knowing there is someone who cares can reduce the stress and help a person living with dementia find their bearings.
It is also important to introduce yourself first. Often people with memory loss may not recognize someone they know, so allow this person to understand that they do not know you, but you are happy to help them.
Approach slowly to not startle the confused person.
Introduce yourself and explain that you were just passing by and ask if they need help.
If you can help guide them to where they are going, take a few minutes to make sure they get there.
If they are totally lost and need more help, ask if there is someone you can call to help them. You can ask if they have a phone and ask if together you can look at the last incoming calls to find a contact number of someone who can help.
In this Dementia Friendly Canada video, you can see how you can help someone who has lost their way.
By giving a few minutes of your time, you not only can help someone find their way, but you also help boost their confidence so they can stay independent. Imagine if more people took the time to learn to be dementia friendly how many more people living with memory loss would feel more free to go out and about.
Anger and Memory Loss
Very often when someone is feeling confused and doesn’t understand what is wrong with them, they may often react in anger. It may be difficult to tell if the behavior is just Anger or Dementia.
When someone is unable to accept the changes, they are experiencing, such as memory loss and confusion, they may try to explain these changes by blaming those around them. When we can recognize the reason behind this behavior we can react accordingly. In Naomi’s Feil’s Validation Method we accept the person’s reality at that moment and we validate what they are feeling rather than argue with them. In this wonderful clip produced by Dementia Friendly Canada, see how the librarian validates what the person feels and tries to find a solution rather than argue.
Imagine how this situation could have erupted into a very unpleasant argument. Please learn and share with others so that more people will be dementia friendly.
When Words Aren't Enough
In 2014, Wendy Mitchel was diagnosed with Young-onset Dementia (Alzheimer’s type) at the age of 58. What is remarkable, is that this incredibly bright and inspiring woman has not only chronicled how her life has changed, so we can understand what it is like to live with dementia, but she has found ways to overcome having memory loss. Wendy describes this as "outwitting dementia."
In her first book, Somebody I Used to Know, Wendy Mitchel describes the difficulty of talking to people, especially on the phone. She refers to people on the phone as faceless voices. Wendy writes:
The phone with faceless voices has become the enemy.
When you speak to someone who has dementia on the phone, you are not able to see their facial cues, so you do not know if the person has processed what you have said. It is important to realize and try to speak in person as much as possible. You can read more about Wendy Mitchel in our blog: Understanding Dementia In this last clip produced by Dementia Friendly Canada, you can see how by demonstrating an exercise rather than just explaining an exercise, can make all the difference to an older person, especially someone living with dementia.
One of the ways you can help make communities more dementia friendly is by learning more about dementia. Besides their wonderful video clips, The Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Dementia Friendly Cananda is a wonderful resource site. When you have a few minutes read some of their short articles so you too can help change the stigma associated with dementia and possibly make a big difference in someone’s life. ---
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We all need touch, but sadly the people who need it the most, the older population, receive very little.
In this webinar we will discuss the importance of touch, how we can easily add more touch for the older population and how hand reflexology has helped people living with dementia. Touch can also be used for self-care to help both professionals and family members.
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