A recent report in The Guardian featured the views of a former nurse on the subject of dementia in the elderly. This caregiver’s perspective was especially interesting given that she herself has dementia. Her name is Ann Johnson and she has made it a life mission of sorts to spread the word about this cognitive condition and talk to healthcare professionals on the how dementia affects patients on a day-to-day basis.
Challenge on Dementia, a government initiative
The US government has encouraged dementia research and independent organizations have provided funding for the same. Britain is not far behind. That country’s government has announced that it would double the funding for dementia research as part of its “Challenge on Dementia” initiative. The program aims to dispel the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the condition through discourse and knowledge sharing. And, Ann is a foot soldier in this regard, traveling across the country to educate and enlighten people.
Speaking about dementia
Ann has several years of experience as an NHS nurse and has been a lecturer at the University of Manchester. Now 58, she was diagnosed with dementia six years ago and talked extensively since about her experience of living with the condition. She says speaking about dementia gives her a sense of purpose, adding that there are three important things that drive awareness about it — keeping faith, friends and engaging in frank discussions.
How does Ann cope with her dementia?
Ann says little things can make a big difference to the way those with dementia manage daily activities. Ann, for instance, has a steady routine that she maintains to make her way through the challenges. She records her schedule for the coming day on a dictaphone every evening so it serves as a reminder. Ann says routine and time-keeping help her get through the day with minimal frustration. She also relies on the support and reassurance from loved ones around her. Keeping the mind engaged and active is essential for all seniors, including those with dementia. Five Carlton Senior Living communities in California offer LiFE memory care which focuses on social and recreational activities for residents.
Ann’s advice to healthcare professionals
Ann recommends that health professionals ask patients open-ended questions to get an idea about their level of cognitive understanding and ability. She says simple things like speaking slowly; asking one question at a time; being precise about inquiries and giving patients time to think can help tremendously. Ann also suggests observing patients’ eyes for recognition when questions are posed to them.
People like Ann offer hope to dementia patients and caregivers, and prove that the condition is not an end to life but the beginning of a new one filled with patience, understanding and support.