The other day I saw a poster in my GP surgery. It was an open invitation to learn about dementia – excellent, good progress I thought. On closer inspection I noticed the second line said “come join us and bust the stereotypes about dementia victims suffering from dementia”. I decided not to attend. I made a mistake. I should have been there right at the front.
The saying ‘words will never hurt me’ is not true. The way we talk about and to people living with dementia is indicative of our values and the way we see and view others. Words like victim and suffering hurt, and my avoidance of this invitation does not change the misconceptions that still exist. It makes the journey of change take longer.
For more than 25 years I have been on a mission to inform, educate and improve the living experience for people living with dementia, as well as those who love and care for them. Most of the time it has been great fun, sometimes difficult, often sad, but never boring.
I am proud to have supported many people living with dementia to have their voice heard. Am I satisfied with that? No, it is not enough so I shout a four letter word once again this Dementia Awareness Week – LOVE.
Being kind with love in our hearts gives us all a better life. It involves recognising that people living with dementia are not broken adults whose life has ended with their diagnosis. Instead of focusing on their ‘needs’, focus on their abilities, supporting the person to live well and accepting that risk is a part of life.
Respect the uniqueness of the person as they live through their journey and respect their current reality. Be vigilant to change and be flexible in your approach but, most importantly, fill each day with great moments as right now matters.
This year the theme of Dementia Awareness Week is doing something new. Trying new experiences is what makes life worth living and it helps make great moments.
Dementia Guiding Light
Follow Victoria on Twitter @vantassia999