Living with dementia – The challenges of being a loved one or friend
Living with dementia – The challenges of being a loved one or friend by David Haswell, Bluebird Care South Tyneside, Director.
The challenges of being a loved one or friend
Living with dementia is obviously challenging for the individual, however, it can also be very challenging for their loved ones and friends. We often find it is very difficult for people to come to terms with how this cruel disease is taking hold of their loved one and the changes that they're seeing is sometimes very hard to comprehend and understand.
Where the partner has no choice, what we sometimes see is friends distancing themselves and this is not because they don't care it's more often than not them not knowing how to act or how to behave around the person who is infected affected with dementia.
As a consequence, a lot of the onus falls on the partner and family who sometimes struggle to cope with the challenges that present especially when the dementia progresses.
Coming to terms with dementia
Even though dementia is becoming more prevalent in our society and there's some really good initiatives like dementia friends out there to help people understand the disease and how to interact and support those affected by it, there is still this barrier that we see exist on tip toeing around the elephant in the room.
If you're reading this and your friend or you know someone who is maybe showing signs of dementia or has been diagnosed, I implore you not to distance yourself, but in fact educate yourself to understand that there is no right or wrong way to interact, more importantly that your presence and loving connection is worth far more then silence.
Keeping a sense of normality and routine can be very beneficial to those living with dementia and also ensuring there are within familiar surroundings is also crucial. I was lucky enough to visit Hogeweyk Dementia Village in Amsterdam a few years ago, this is truly a unique place and to date I have not seen anything like it.
The Hogeweyk – Dementia Village
The Hogeweyk is the outcome of an innovative and disruptive vision on living, care and wellbeing for people living with severe dementia. It means a paradigm shift in nursing home care. The traditional nursing home has been deinstitutionalized, transformed and normalized. The Hogeweyk is just like any other neighbourhood. A neighbourhood that is part of the broader society in the town of Weesp. In The Hogeweyk you will find houses where people live together based on similar lifestyles. They can visit the pub, restaurant, theatre, the supermarket or one of the many offered clubs. The concept supports unique needs, lifestyles and personal preferences. Living in The Hogeweyk puts boredom, loneliness and hopelessness in another perspective. It focusses on possibilities, not on disabilities. And it goes without say that this is all supported by trained professionals.
What this visit taught me was that as long as the people living with dementia are safe they can live a varied and happy life which can improve their overall health and well-being remarkably. Now, this self-contained village is for those people with severe dementia however, if we translate for those people who have mild to moderate dementia who may be still living at home, I think lessons can be taken from the Hogeweyk model. Those suffering can still live a varied life which is fulfilling as long as they have the correct support around them. It shows that their life does not have to stop on diagnoses.
Part of the puzzle
I am not for one minute saying that this approach will solve all the problems or challenges, however, it is one part of the puzzle that we can help support to ensure that those affected by this cruel disease, are able to live their best life.
There has been a lot of research into foods, sleeping patterns and reducing stress in our lives that can also help slow or limit the progression of the disease, but social interaction also plays a significant role in those effecting living a happier life. There will be times of frustration from all involved, these are normal and unavoidable, however, they will be fewer if all of their family, loved ones and friends educate and embrace being present in their lives.
David Haswell, Bluebird Care Newcastle, Director
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