- October 17, 2020
- Steve Heisler
- Senior Injuries
Life can be better for patients with Alzheimer’s. First of all, we are in an exciting time because our culture is finally realizing that Alzheimer’s is not a medical issue; it’s a cultural issue. Five years ago, there was a real movement in the United Kingdom to change society’s understanding of dementia. Looking at the dementia-friendly movement in the United Kingdom, they have trained millions of regular people like waiters, waitresses, bank tellers, police officers, and call center employees to work with a person who has dementia. If we as a culture can change the way we interact with people with dementia, they will not suffer as much as they do.
The Importance of Accessibility
We decided that people with wheelchairs should have access to things like the supermarket and banks in the eighties. So, we passed all kinds of rules that make it mandatory for the buildings to be accessible to people in wheelchairs or people who cannot see. We haven’t done that with how we think about dementia. Many people look at dementia as the worst disease that could ever be, and everything is the fault of the disease. However, take a massive step back. You will realize that the suffering involved with dementia is because our communities are not set up to support people with cognitive challenges. The dementia-friendly movement in the United Kingdom has now come to the United States. Slowly but surely, people in the United States are getting trained to support someone who has dementia.
So, how does someone get trained to support a person with dementia? For example, let’s take employees at a department store. Those employees learn the different symptoms of dementia. That way, the person will be able to spot it in an everyday situation. The employee shouldn’t worry or freak out. Also, the employee shouldn’t assume the person doesn’t have a right to be in the store. In reality, people with dementia have a right to go about the store and go shopping.
If someone with dementia sees a mirror, they may start to get very concerned because they see someone who looks familiar yet not familiar. If the person talks to the mirror, the employee should lead the person gently away from the mirror. Also, instead of asking the person with dementia what they want, the employee should give options. For example, the employee should say, “would you like shoes or pants?” Make it easy for the person with dementia to focus and make a decision. These are some specific tools for employees to treat their customers better.
One of the reasons why we don’t see people shopping who have dementia is because our communities across America don’t allow for it. Not many places are dementia-friendly in the United States. So, when someone with dementia leaves their house, it almost becomes life-threatening. Part of the dementia-friendly movement is for people to learn to live with dementia. For instance, we have learned how to live with cancer. We need to take the same steps in society and learn to live with dementia. Currently, it’s considered the worst disease. It is so stigmatized that you can even lose your job if someone finds out that you have it. We need to shape the way we see dementia to become a greater and more welcoming community.
Creative Spaces and Dementia Adventure
The United Kingdom also has several organizations that are helping people with dementia live a high-quality life. One organization, Creative Spaces, uses the outdoors to bring creativity and conversation into the lives of people with dementia. Organizations can help make the outdoors more accessible to people. Plus, it’s helping people with dementia live more independently while improving their health. Another organization in the United Kingdom is Dementia Adventure. At Dementia Adventure, they also help people with dementia engage in nature and outdoors. They find that their well-being and quality of life improve with regular exercise and outdoor activity.
Overall, people with dementia should still be able to function in society. With training around the country, our society can start to become more dementia-friendly. Evidence shows that the more a patient with dementia can be outside and in the community, the higher quality of life they will have. If you want to learn more about how the National Injured Senior Law Center can help you, like our Facebook Page.