Dementia FriendsPublished on: 29 July 2022
Working in the Court of Protection department I regularly interact with clients who lack capacity to manage their property and affairs, or other aspects of their daily life. Some of our clients may have sustained traumatic brain injuries due to personal injury or medical negligence, or they may have a disease which affects their brain, such as a type of dementia. As with everything in life, there isn’t a one size suits all approach that you can take when supporting people, so I decided to attend a Dementia Friends Webinar to ensure I can tailor my approach in the most appropriate way.
Dementia Friends offer free online, or in person, sessions to educate people about dementia. They have short pre-recorded videos you can watch immediately, or you can sign up to attend a virtual or in person webinar run by a Dementia Champion. Due to living in Shropshire I chose to sign up to a virtual session which lasted around one hour. If you would like to attend a session, and I would highly recommend this to everyone, you can do so here.
Dementia is an umbrella term and covers diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society published in December 2021 that there were 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK with this figure forecast to rise substantially over the next 20 years.
Whilst living with dementia is not without its challenges, there are many negative connotations strongly linked with the diagnosis. Although dementia is degenerative it is easy to forget that there is more to a person than dementia. The Dementia Friends session was very much focused on addressing and changing the stigma associated with dementia.
As with anything in life it is easy to get trapped focusing on the negatives, but there are things we can do as individuals to help change the stigma. Of course this will vary depending on the situation and the individual, but multiple small changes can make a large difference.
Dementia doesn’t solely affect someone’s memory, it can affect their motor skills such as being unable to use a knife and fork when eating. Someone living with dementia may have difficulty with sequencing and struggle with tasks such as getting dressed. They may have difficulty communicating or with their visual perception. Understanding how dementia affects the individual means you can learn how to assist them. For example, if you were to ask someone living with dementia if they wanted orange or blackcurrant squash to drink they may not be able to communicate with you, however, if you had a picture card with both on they may be able to understand the question and communicate which they would like. Something as simple as slowing down your pace when you talk, and simplifying sentences to someone living with dementia, could make a difference in their ability to communicate.
Change doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. It may be that a setting is familiar and leaving things as they are is what’s best for a person living with dementia, however, for some a small change may make their life easier. This could be something as simple as changing the layout of the kitchen so it is easier to make a sandwich or hot drink, or the layout of a wardrobe making it easier for them to get dressed in the morning.
This is twofold: we need to be aware that we can help even in small ways and also the need to spread awareness. There is more to a person than their dementia diagnosis whether they are in the early stages or more advanced stages. It is easy for people to see or hear of a diagnosis and make an assumption. Sadly we witness these assumptions far too frequently, but with education and raising awareness hopefully they will become less frequent.
We understand that a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t automatically mean someone lacks capacity, and if they do lack capacity regarding certain decisions it doesn’t mean they lack capacity to make any decision whatsoever. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a disease that affects the brain, have an acquired brain injury, or have been assessed as lacking capacity, that doesn’t mean access to legal help is no longer available. The Court of Protection department at Lanyon Bowdler specialise in mental capacity law and are happy to assist you with any enquiries.