“I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean today doesn’t matter”

The week before Christmas I had the privilege of being interviewed on Premier Radio about dementia and encouraging those who are looking after loved ones with dementia over the Christmas period.

You can read the full transcript below, and also listen online here (the interview starts after 9m40s).

There is much more that could have been said so here I summarize, and expand, in 3 key points. I hope you may find them helpful and encouraging as we enter into the New Year.

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Valuing the whole person – The Enriched Model

Last June I wrote a blog post about changing the world through my PhD. I still believe my research is an important step to making change to wider practice, and to getting a job in which I can influence positive change.

But changing the world doesn’t have to be such large scale! We can change another person’s world just by treating them as a person!

So how can we treat our patients more like people? We start by looking beyond the task we’re performing to the person we are with.

Personhood

Tom Kitwood understood this idea well, calling it Personhood; “it implies recognition, respect and trust” (Kitwood, 1997).

Personhood can be massively undermined when people are not considered according to their individual needs. By treating the people in our care as patients and tasks, we can easily lose the recognition, respect and trust we all deserve.

The real challenge is how we put this into practice. Kitwood came up with a model to help us think outside the “task” and the “patient” and give more positive experiences to the people we are caring for .

The Enriched Model

1. Neurological Impairment

This includes the decline of cognitive abilities that comes with dementia – memory loss, slower processing, language difficulties, loss of abstract thinking, reduced planning and sequencing, behaviour, and more!

2. Health and Physical Well-being

A person with dementia may also have other illness, temporary or long standing, which will impact their functional ability and how they are experiencing their time in our care. These may include pain, sensory impairments, chest infections, UTIs, wounds or trauma, pressure ulcers, long term conditions (diabetes/blood pressure or heart conditions), and mental state.

It’s so important to know if the person you are caring for has more than a dementia diagnosis – how else will you be able to understand how they may be feeling?

3 & 4. Life History and Personality

A key way in which we make sense of the ‘here and now’ is through reference to past experience. This doesn’t change for somebody with dementia.

It’s so important to learn about their past relationships, occupation, hobbies and experiences for 2 main reasons:

  1. It builds our respect for them, enhancing their personhood, and,
  2. It gives us an idea of how they might perceive a current situation.

Talk to them, talk to their family, use the “This is Me” or “Life History” documents to try and find out about the person under your care.

5. Social Psychology

People and their experiences are moulded by their sense of self, relationships, interactions and the environment. Our relationship and interactions with the people we are caring for have the potential to be extremely positive or extremely damaging.

Considering the whole picture and knowing the person will make all the difference to our relationships and the way we interact with them.

“Personhood implies recognition, respect and trust”

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So, how do we treat our patients more like people? In the same ways we do with other people! We get to know them, respect them, recognise them as a person and we trust them. We do all we can to enable the abilities they hold, and we interact in positive ways when assisting them with the abilities they have lost.

A person is more than their dementia diagnosis. Lets keep hold of who they are and ensure their care is the best we can provide!

A person is more than their dementia diagnosis.

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