10 pieces of wisdom from dr. allen power & dementia beyond disease

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In mid-2014, I devoured Dr. Allen Power’s first book Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care. My tattered copy is full of underlines, stars, tick marks, and highlights. I’ve referred back to it so many times the pages are starting to fall out.

I kick myself for waiting too long to get his second book Dementia Beyond Disease: Enhancing Well-Being, but now that I have it in my hot little hands, I’m eating it up as well. It’s hard to say what I love most about Dr. Power’s work, but I was hooked after I saw his alternative to the biomedical model, which, to be honest, I didn’t even know existed until I read his first book.

We need more forward thinkers and innovators such as Dr. Power, who, with Dementia Beyond Disease, takes another giant step forward and pushes the envelope with respect to care models, well-being, and how we perceive dementia as well as the people who live with it.

Here are 10 pieces of wisdom I’ve extracted from the prologue and first chapter alone:

1 ) We lament the millions of neurons lost to dementia and ignore the many millions that work perfectly well.

2 ) Preserve identity, celebrate personhood, and create meaning in the moment.

3 ) Many people have acquired a special type of wisdom that comes from living with dementia. They have come to see their lives as far from over, for they have had to deal more directly and personally with grief, loss, and the sense of impending death.

4 ) Changing our approach can produce more well-being for people living with dementia than any pill that is available today, or is likely to be available in the foreseeable future.

5 ) Well-being cannot be bottled. It doesn’t come in liquid, capsule or pill form.

6 ) We create living environments based on our view of the world, our daily needs, and our staffing patterns, and expect people whose brains are changing to adapt to them. And when they cannot, we diagnose a “behaviour problem” and medicate them.

7 ) Dementia is a shift in the way a person experiences the world around her/him.

8 ) People with dementia continue to learn new information, incorporate data, and use problem-solving skills to adapt to their changing perceptions.

9 ) Over-medication of people with dementia is not simply a problem in nursing homes; it is a community-wide problem that reflects broad societal views.

10 ) We need to change our minds about people whose minds have changed.

Dr. Power’s books are priced in keeping with their value, and are worth every penny. I can’t recommend them to you highly enough.

 

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Image copyright: dr911 / 123RF Stock Photo

7 Comments

  1. #4, all day long! (All night long, too.) I’m always trying to get this message across to staff I train and families I work with, too. If real estate is location, location, location, then it’s definitely all about approach, approach, approach when it comes to people living with dementia.
    Sometimes I think people fall into the trap of focusing on the statistics, facts and figures, and sorting where someone is in the disease process (as well as generally feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and frightened) that the obvious becomes lost: people living with dementia, just like anyone else in the universe, like (need!) to be treated with respect, kindness, and love.
    People living with dementia–again, just like anyone else–can sense what you’re bringing to an interaction. Respect, kindness, and love always get better results than anything else I know of.

    • Bingo Christy! It’s not rocket science. But everyone is so steeped in the negative narrative of dementia, and of Alzheimer disease in particular, that they literally drown themselves in it. It’s like some big ugly monster that consumes everything in it’s path. The saddest part is the monster is US!

      To be fair, it’s hard for people to be self aware when we are bombarded with never-ending doom and gloom and the long slow train through hell and into oblivion. Sigh.

      And yes: respect, kindness and love, instead of neglect, abuse and drugs please. #FightTheGoodFight

    • Fantastic! You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the disease process or neurology to provide an environment where people experience well-being. As Christy say ; approach and understanding of changed perceptions coupled with kindness, respect and love makes the difference between happiness and distress.

      • “You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the disease process or neurology to provide an environment where people experience well-being.” Yes, Laura, it should be fairly straightforward – one would think! I love how you put it on your site “understanding behaviours that challenge us.” bravo you and keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing Dr. Powers’ insights. He will be moderating the opening and closing panel discussions at the Atlanta conference. I will also be on the panels. See you there.

    • Dr. Power is one of my dementia care heroes. I hold him in the highest esteem and love that he is always open to rethinking his own thinking. We need more like him. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

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