Did you know that detective skills come in very handy when supporting people with dementia?
Detective skills are important – not in the sense that something wrong needs to be detected – but in the way that a detective investigates situations and tries to find clues that might explain what has happened and why.
This is because, for many people with dementia, it can be hard to communicate. It might be because their memory is getting worse or they have difficulty finding the right words. They may need help with communicating important aspects of their life: like their past, their interests and background, their preferences and habits.
Time and again, for Ozcare’s team of dementia advisors, learning more about the life of a person with dementia can reveal clues that are the key to offering them better support. Family carers and friends are often a big help with this.
It might be that a person with dementia worked hard running a local shop, so they enjoy heading out to the shops daily – even though there is no strict need to do this now.
Another person may have spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, so they are anxious if they need physical care as an older person because it brings up painful memories.
Another person may have been a keen dancer – so when the local dementia day centre offers dancing sessions, they are the first to sign up.
Knowing about a person’s past is important simply because it helps us know the person better – which is important in itself. But more than this, it can be the key to offering support that is really ‘spot on’ for that person. We can work hard to promote the good things and learn what to avoid. We can make sense of behaviours which may seem odd but actually are a meaningful way for the person to go about their day.
There are all sorts of ways of finding out about a person’s life – perhaps through simply chatting, or looking over some old photos, creating a memory book or sharing some of their favourite music.
It’s true that some topics may be distressing for the person to talk about, so it’s important to be sensitive always and take things slowly if necessary.
It can be tempting to think that a person with dementia is ‘fading away’, but in fact the person is always there, and it’s more important than ever to help them share it with others. It just takes a bit of detective work sometimes.