I attended a class on building dementia facilities a few days ago. It was eye-opening and sad at the same time.
Sad because I have just realised that in Singapore, we have homes for patients with dementia, but by and large, they are for the poor and destitute. Living conditions are not ideal, some would say even awful. (Here’s a picture of a typical nursing home.) A group of dedicated advocates is trying to improve on the situation, hence the class.
Most people keep their dementia parents at home, and try to cope. Basically my home is now the assisted living facility for my mom. I have a helper who comes in daily to cook and clean. This works because at this point in time mom is still fairly independent. She can be left alone at home for a few hours, while she reads, watches TV, writes in her notebook, and generally looks after herself.
I don’t let mom cook, partly because I think she has lost the ability, and also because I don’t want her to learn how to turn on the gas stove in my house, having read about the dangers looming in the future.
The eye-opening bit in the class was this – we were given a scenario where someone new has come to work in the facility, and she has never interacted with anyone with dementia. We were asked to explain to this new employee the most important things to know in dealing with dementia patients.
As the class described what they would say, the most important point that came across was, Don’t Argue.
– don’t argue, listen and try to understand
– validate and don’t argue
– look them in the eye when talking to them, treat with respect, and don’t disagree.
– speak in simple sentences, don’t lecture, don’t argue.
The other useful thing that I learned was that if the toilet was visible from the patient’s bed, they will use it, and it greatly reduces the incontinence problem. Now I have been considering some home improvements, but having the toilet fully visible from the living space is not possible in my home. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Maybe leaving a toilet light on at night will help.