21st September 2016 – Today is World Alzheimer’s awareness day and the theme this year is “Remember Me”.
There is no doubt that altered cognitive function and awareness poses a challenge for those of us delivering care. Building effective relationships and ensuring good communication is our goal and when the folk we are working with are often distressed, forgetful or seemingly uncooperative, it can make our life much trickier.
Maybe we should take a pause and step into their shoes just for a while. We know that empathy and compassion is key to us providing quality, person-centred care but it can often be lost in the busyness of clinics or in getting the job done. We forget – we forget the person and instead we see disability, disease and dysfunction – we forget to see the person.
I think that this year’s theme of Remember Me has huge impact as it asks us to find time and space to think about the person as they may have been and how they might view the current situation. It can be tempting to see the inconvenience and the problems BUT we should always make time to see the person.
You may be aware of the video of a son and his Dad singing in a car that went viral – the Dad is transformed in front of our eyes – often irritable and “difficult” he sings along completely present in the moment and wow what a voice!!
We can do something similar in our conversations in the clinic, on the ward or in the home – finding a way to link with the person as they were before not just the person they have become because of disease.
Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is challenging but with increased knowledge and understanding we can find ways to effectively communicate and if we feel stressed and/or distressed by the work we are doing then we need to seek support. There is increasing acknowledgement that those working in health and social care encounter suffering and difficulties that many never imagine let alone see on a day to day basis. We’re not being weak or difficult if we seek advice and ways to sustain us in our work, instead it should be seen as doing the right thing and seeking to improve the care we give the accepted way of going about our business.
Alzheimer’s Awareness days not only seek to increase knowledge and understanding about the condition but also provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the care we give and how we feel about the people we come into contact with in our work. It might be just what we need to identify new skills to develop or support systems that we might need to access.
PGDip Leadership Coaching, MA, PGCE, MSc, BA, NDNCert, RN
Annie Barr Consultant