What a privilege it was today to be with more than 80 people all keen to know how they can minister to people with dementia and their families. Together we went on a journey of understanding, exploring some of the spiritual and emotional needs of people living with dementia.
Realising once again the importance of knowing the person, entering into their reality and seeing beyond the dementia.
Such uplifting stories of people with dementia touched by music, prayer, worship and Scriptures that affirm their identity. Glimpses of hope amidst the reality of this harsh disease.
Though they may forget our visits, they'll remember the feelings we left them with for much longer.
The message I am taking home is let's not forget people with dementia: stay connected, come alongside; reaffirm their identity and journey with them and their carers along this path.
On Monday we were discussing what “Dying Well” meant in terms of the Dementia Strategy. I emphasised the importance of quality of life and how when I worked as a nurse in palliative care our mantra was to help people to live until they died. This isn’t new. Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement wrote, “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life, and we will help you not only to die peacefully but to live until you die.”
But how do we do that for people in the advanced stages of dementia, who can no longer walk, or easily communicate and have reduced cognitive function and who may be in this condition for an extended period? What does quality of life look like for them? It’s a hard question, but today I found some answers.
I participated in a Namaste Care Training day along with 5 care homes from our Borough. I was struck by a comment made by the facilitator, Min Stacpoole. She said that people in the advanced stages of dementia can still experience emotion and enjoyment. In Namaste Care that is given through the senses: the touch of a gentle hand massage, the nostalgia of familiar music, the relaxing scent of lavender, the pleasurable taste of chocolate ice cream.
It was so encouraging to be surrounded by compassionate care home staff who are committed to helping their residents live until they die and who want to explore even better ways of doing it. I’m so excited to see how this is going to unfold across our borough and beyond.