Did you know that family caregivers of people with Dementia are often called the invisible second patient? They are critical to the quality of the care recipients, and the effects of being a family caregiver, though sometimes positive, are generally negative with high rates of emotional burden, social isolation, physical ill-health, and a lot of financial hardships. It is tough.
There are scholars, professionals, and educators, on the other hand, around the world who are working hard to bring new approaches to care. Our guest, Judy Cornish, is an elder law attorney, author, and founder of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network, in short DAWN. She’s best known for having created the DAWN method, dementia care that supports the skills not lost to Dementia.
Preserving dignity in Dementia is not just a convenience but necessary too. The patient loses their memory, their analytical and reasoning skills, and so many other things. For any individual, this would feel helpless, and at some point, they might start feeling agitated and angry at themselves. As caregivers, the responsibility lies with us to make them feel good and confident about themselves again.
When a person loses their cognitive skills due to Dementia, they deal with a lot of emotional stress and difficulties. Companions and caregivers sometimes might forget and ignore their humanity and dignity, not realizing the depth of what the Dementia patient is going through. Sometimes you can end up asking the person to do things they are no longer capable of doing, which will only make them distressed. All this, in turn, will make your life difficult; being a caregiver is not easy.
Dementia is treated as a disease, whereas it is a condition, something that is incurable. Eventually, you realize that their behaviors are their symptoms, and people start focusing on them instead of the person and end up labeling them with terms. This is what is causing the change. The only way to preserve their dignity, independence, and autonomy is by recognizing their emotional responses to their experiences right now. Acknowledging and understanding it can help you meet their emotional needs, which can help the Dementia patient and you as well.