I’m a personal support worker and graduated from Conestoga College in 2005. I absolutely love helping seniors who have dementia, especially those who may be experiencing more complex behaviours as a result of their disease.
Recently, my father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Before his diagnosis, I had a strong feeling for quite a while that something was happening and had advocated for our family to go and get him checked out to confirm what I was thinking.
I have cared for many residents and their families living with dementia and have firsthand experience with their struggles along the way, from diagnosis, to home care, to long-term care, to hospital stays, to transitioning back into long-term care. Fortunately for my father-in-law, who still lives at home, he has found great understanding and support from the Alzheimer Society.
But I continue to see stigma from both the healthcare side of things and from a family perspective, whether you have dementia or are caring for someone with it. There have been times when the stigma we have experienced as a family has been significant.
Attitudes are changing but not nearly where they need to be. We need to take dementia out of the shadows. I believe education is a huge part of understanding. I also think if people could participate in a program that simulates what life is like with dementia, it would be easier for them to understand, especially for those working and caring for people with dementia. Training is so essential.
A final thought: Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone with dementia. Do not forget the person. They’re still there.
Here are my tips to help you understand:
- Dementia is not normal for "old people."
- All behaviour has meaning and should not be ignored. Even though someone with dementia may be non-verbal they can still hear you…they’re still there.
- Visit as often as you can; be patient and allow the person with dementia the time to process information and respond.
- People with dementia are still people and they deserve to be treated with respect at all times.
- Be kind – always.