As Dementia Awareness Week is taking place from 14th-20th May, it’s the ideal time to start talking more about the realities of living with dementia. Whether you’re a relative of someone with dementia, or you work with people living with dementia as part of your job, it is important that you feel comfortable talking about dementia in a variety of contexts. Communicating with someone living with dementia is one of the most challenging yet essential parts of care, as is being able to speak openly about dementia with others. By opening up dementia communication, you can help to remove the stigma surrounding the illness and encourage people to seek support and treatment when they need it.
For Dementia Awareness Week 2017, professionals from the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland have committed to opening up communication about dementia. This very common illness still carries a great deal of stigma, which prevents those living with dementia and their relatives from being able to talk about it with ease. Alzheimer Scotland say that one of the most common things they hear from the relatives of those living with dementia is that they find it very difficult to talk about the illness with others. Despite these barriers, a significant part of dementia care is communication, and overcoming the stigma of talking about dementia can have a profound impact on those living with the illness.
Dementia awareness training is an excellent way to open up conversations in your care home about living with dementia. This training should address the nature of the stigma surrounding dementia and some of the misconceptions that many people have about the illness, such as that it only affects elderly people. One of the main reasons that people find it difficult to talk about dementia is fear, but by having respectful and open conversations about dementia, much of this fear and anxiety can be relieved. All carers should be aware of the facts about dementia and should feel confident talking about the condition with those living with dementia, as well as their relatives and other healthcare professionals.
Speaking to people living with dementia about their illness can present some challenges, but if approached from a place of care and understanding it can be very effective in aiding treatment. The most important thing to remember when speaking to someone about their illness is to be gentle and not to pressure them to talk if they aren’t ready to. Dementia can be a frightening illness for many people, so it’s vital that carers are emotionally supportive and sympathise with those they are caring for. It is also important to be non-judgemental and refrain from using critical language, letting them know that you are on their side and respect their wishes.
When speaking to the friends and family of someone living with dementia, you should adopt a similar approach of understanding and emotional support. Talk openly about the illness in order to encourage them to do the same, and let them know that you are there to listen to their worries and concerns. Reassure them that support is available for them and for their loved one, but don’t make promises about the future. Let them know that they can use services such as the Alzheimer’s Society web forum to speak to other people who are in a similar situation. By opening up these conversations, you can help to improve the lives of those living with dementia and their families.