The increasing incidence of dementia, and profile it is gaining in the public imagination, means that this is a condition that none of us can ignore. What role might a strengths approach have to play in the way we view people living with dementia? It is all too easy to see the negatives and deficits around someone living with dementia, and to remain oblivious to their capabilities and potential, as well as the supportive resources they have around them. Just because you have a particular label doesn’t mean you have lost all capacity to dream and desire a reasonable quality of life for yourself, as determined by you, not imposed on you by others. However, the so-called ‘community’ can become a progressively challenging place as cognitive capabilities decline.
‘Positive risk-taking’ is a concept well established by the Practice Based Evidence consultancy, and it applies equally to the risks a person living with dementia may wish to take, and to all of us who live in, work in and develop communities. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissioned a piece of work from a collaboration of Practice Based Evidence and the Mental Health Foundation to investigate how the concept of positive risk-taking may apply to the government initiative of developing dementia-friendly communities. The think piece is explored in the published ‘Viewpoint’ at the following link:
“Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they’re all individuals and they’re all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.” [Carey Mulligan].
Check out ‘Still Alice’ as a great portrayal of the tragic descent into dementia, and the impact on a wider family as well as the person living with the condition.
Dave is a reported case example (not interview) of someone advancing in age and who is not only coming to terms with complex health problems, but is also adamant about exerting his own views of what a plan for his life should look like when in contact with health care professionals.
Dave has recently lost his wife in a road traffic accident, and his children are concerned about his care needs as he is now diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. Dave puts his strengths to work, using skills he has developed over many years as a financial advisor, as well as his passion for reading up about his condition and the way services should work for him, not making him fit into a standard bureaucratic process. He challenges his local services to be genuinely person-centred and flexible in the way they meet with him, listen to him, and document his wishes. He also makes it very clear that he will not become a token gesture to service user involvement by refusing an invitation to join a local strategic committee.
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“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” [Gabriel Garcia Marquez].
One of the main challenges of the widely recognised ageing population is how we tap into the deep well of resources in older people, as well as identifying more resources in order to support older people with specific needs.
This episode will explore the idea of ‘care capital’ from the perspective of contributing through voluntary work. An emphais is placed on the baby boomer generation, with a wealth of skills and talents alongside a desire to contribute something back into society.
What do others gain from our charitable contributions? The flip side of that coin is that we also gain enormously from making contributions of time and effort; not least the protective factors that come from structured physical and psychological activity. There are a multitude of opportunities in local communities, but our more flexible way of thinking about work should also be reflected in more flexible ways in which we may be able to shape our voluntary contributions, so that we tap into the strengths of the many. A good neighbour befriending scheme is identified as one personal example.
For the full content of this episode click on the links to iTunes and Sound Cloud (or go to Stitcher Radio):
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” [Mark Twain].