Dementia Awareness Month: Small Actions Big Difference – Sharing What We Learned

Several St Louis staff members attended this event held by Dementia Australia https://www.dementia.org.au/ for Dementia Awareness month, September 2018 – Small Actions Big Difference.

St Louis Aged Care has pioneered dementia care programs for people living with dementia in their own homes across South Australia.

Here are some of the key takeaways from this event that we wanted to share with you:

What was the event about

The event was about living in harmony with people who have dementia in our community by showing a greater level of acceptance and understanding about this condition.

One of the main themes was to look beyond the condition of dementia, to the person, and focus on what they can still do rather than what they can no longer do.

Who was the event aimed at?

It was aimed at everyone in the community – care givers, therapists, health practitioners, family members and friends of people with dementia.

There were people with dementia telling their story about how they are treated in the community, the impact this on their emotional wellbeing and they discussed how would like to be treated instead. It made us quite emotional listening to their stories.

A few people with younger onset dementia who were in their early 50’s or 60’s, were also talking about how they struggle with acceptance of others and yet they have so much more of their lives to live. Their condition is progressing slowly, so they want to continue living their lives with purpose and meaning.

What were the key messages at this event that we took with us?

Embracing dementia as part of our community – a key message which we have always embraced at St Louis, is that people with dementia can be a normal part of our community without being treated like they no longer have anything to contribute, which is not the case.

Helping people with dementia continue to live fulfilling and rewarding lives - people with dementia may have moments where they forget people’s names, or where they put their things. They may lose their spatial awareness and forget where they may be or how to get home, and this leaves them feeling vulnerable and anxious.

With some empathy, understanding and kindness, people with dementia can be cared for by those around them so that they can get on with their lives. In the majority of cases, people with dementia do not need to be put into residential aged care but can continue living at home with some additional support.

Focus on the person, not the dementia - to look beyond the condition and refocus back on the person with dementia so that you are seeing what the person is capable of today, not what they can no longer do. Finding their strengths and ensuring they still feel good about themselves and their life.

What would we change as a result of this event?

At St Louis, we have always promoted a dementia friendly community supporting people to stay at home by being a little creative and finding ways to keep them safe and comfortable at home, without the need to enter residential aged care.

The event was a reminder to continue treating people with dementia the same way as we do with all our clients, with our attentive presence – listening to and discussing their concerns and how we can help them manage their daily routines with more ease.

We have always been dementia champions. Our staff have been involved in cognitive therapy groups with home care clients and Uni SA, with the intent to discover more ways to help people live comfortably at home with dementia.

How can you help create a dementia friendly community?

Have patience – let people with dementia speak and move at their pace with respect and patience which will make them feel valued.

Don’t say – “can’t you remember?” - a married couple at the event were talking about how this statement can be hurtful. The husband has early onset dementia and his wife avoids trying to get him to remember things as this only reminds him of his condition.

Remember the person - we watched a heart-warming short film at the event about a man with dementia saying “I’m still me”, asking people to continue treating him the way they always had.

Never tease – another couple told their story about the husband’s siblings who visit for lunch and will often make comments such as “I am having a Jeffrey moment” meaning they have forgotten something.

Offer assistance – an elderly lady who lives at home and is experiencing dementia, told her story of how she is worried about going out to do the shopping because she can lose track of where she is and then does not know where to go from there. She said she would be so grateful if someone offered assistance in that moment.

You may be interested in reading our blog on Dementia Care – A Caregiver’s 10 Commandments

A dementia friendly community is possible

At St Louis Aged Care, we have been on board with creating a dementia friendly community for many years. We can all develop patience and tolerance for those in our elderly community who are experiencing this condition and help where we can.

Become a Dementia Friend with Dementia Australia

For more information about how you can make a positive difference to someone experiencing dementia, consider becoming a dementia friend

The event was inspiring, a little eye opening and emotional. There are many resources available on the Dementia Australia website and also right here at St Louis Aged Care .

Call St Louis Aged Care on 08 8272 3344 to discuss aged care or home care for yourself or a loved one and how we approach care for people living with dementia.

St Louis Dementia