DEMENTIA CAN BE SUCH a distressing condition that the importance of continuing to ‘live life’ is lost to many people. This is a complex topic that has many nuances.
Whole books have been written about how to interact with persons with dementia. In this chapter, rather than writing a condensed version of one of the excellent books that have a practical ‘how to’ focus (see list in Appendix 3), I outline common psychosocial approaches that are utilised in dementia care, most of which are based upon the achievement of well-being. The themes that emerge will hopefully provide some guidance about living with dementia.
There are some general rules about communication with a person with dementia that are worth mentioning. Remember that the person is dementing, not demented. This means that many mental functions remain relatively intact until the later stages of illness, and these retained abilities should be tapped into as much as possible. Another common mistake that carers and other people make is to talk down to the person as if they were a child or not present at all. Such an approach is both demeaning and likely to provoke resentment. Try to communicate on an adult—adult level but keep things simple. Short sentences containing only one subject are better than longer ones. When asking questions, avoid the ‘multiple choice’ approach. For example, rather than asking ‘Would you like to go to the movies, go to the concert or out to a restaurant?’, it would be better to break down the question into