One of the most shared posts on MyAlzheimersStory.com is this 5 ways we rob people with dementia of their dignity; so far it’s had 10k+ shares on Facebook alone. Dignity is clearly important to people who live with dementia and their care partners. So how can we, as care partners, actively preserve people’s dignity as they live with dementia? Dr. Allen Power shared some thoughts in this article: Dignity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Express It, and I took the liberty of extracting some of the tips that appear at the end of it. Here they are:
1 ) Learn and use optimal communication techniques so that people are well understood and can understand you. Also learn how they prefer to be addressed. (Susan notes: BTW and FYI, this is how I don’t want to be addressed if and when I get Alzheimer disease.)
2 ) Never enter a person’s home or room without identifying yourself and securing permission to enter and engage with them.
3 ) Engage the person as an equal: at eye level or below (See Teepa Snow’s Hand Under Hand (TM) technique), speak to them as you would an adult, not a child, with appropriate pacing and enunciation for them to hear you; and with body language and attention that shows your openness and sincerity.
4 ) Always connect with the person before launching into any task.
5 ) Solicit frequent input and have the person direct all care as far as she is able. Check in frequently. Use Dr. Power’s acronym “SEE”: Slow down, Engage, Empower.
6 ) Do tasks with people, not to them or for them. Engage the person during any tasks; do not treat them like an object.
7 ) Remember: “no” means “no.” Never force care on a person who is declining. (Here’s an example of what can happen when people are forced.)
8 ) Do not argue (more on that here) with or deny what people are feeling or expressing. Seek to understand their perspective.
9 ) Always describe the person with words that you would want used to describe you. Do not use pejorative labels (e.g. “wanderer,” “sufferer,”) or terms that objectify or blame people.
10 ) Be open to learning from the person. Dr. Power’s advice on reframing engagement? “In any interaction, assume the other person is smarter than you are.”
More from Dr. Power on this topic here: Dignity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Express It. His books are available on Amazon here: Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care, and here: Dementia Beyond Disease: Enhancing Well-Being; I’ve lifted some great pieces of wisdom from the first book here, and the second one here.
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