Janet introduced the session as usual.
- The Reflections Friendship Group has been assessed for the Dementia Inclusive Greenwich Award by the Dementia Action Coordinator for Greenwich and one of her assessors (who has dementia). The Commissioning Manager Older People for Greenwich also came along to see the assessment and discuss our work. We should receive feedback on the assessment soon. For more information on Dementia Friendly Greenwich, visit the Greenwich Community Directory here.
- We were very pleased to announce the Reflections Reminiscence Project. The project will start in November/December, run monthly and will have a specific theme to each session. We will start with Christmas. Participation in the project is open to members of the Friendship Group, living in Greenwich, who would benefit from active participation. We aim to have a friendly, fun, atmosphere from the outset – we hope to have many of our current volunteers joining the project. The project follows-on from Peter’s 10 week “apprenticeship” with the Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today (RYCT) programme. More information on that here. We are very grateful to the Rotary Club of Greenwich for providing some funding to run the project. The Rotary Club magazine for August/September highlights the organisations interest in dementia see here.
- Janet has discussed the Carers’ Group with the Commissioning Manager Older People for Greenwich, who will be promoting the group to Social Workers in the borough.
One carer noted that her mother had become a lot less violent since her medication had been changed. This was good news, not least because it meant her carer might withdraw her resignation. The daughter also mentioned that the specialist was reviewing her mum’s diagnosis as they now thought she might have Dementia with Lewy Bodies (see here for more information on Lewy Bodies).
We then had a discussion on when it was appropriate to consider a move into a care home and the different types of services offered by homes. A summary of the differences may be found here. Age Uk has a guide on how to choose a care home and questions to ask when looking around (see here).
The group moved on to consider the pressures of caring for someone with dementia 24 hours a day and the benefits of joining activity groups and respite care. A member said her mum had used Volcare, and Miss Mardle and was about to try Oxleas Art Therapy.
We talked about the lengths carers sometimes need to go to ensure their loved-one eats and drinks, and how to react when they refuse to take anything. There were hard questions around an expectation that people should do everything to prolong life and about quality of life. The Social Care For Excellence site has information on eating well with dementia here.
Then we discussed issues around disinhibited actions in care homes and when it turns into a safeguarding issue. The Social Care For Excellence site has information on this and other challenges here.
Educational topic: Coping and Adjusting to Change
Life presents us with challenges/learning experiences. Some we may willingly embrace such as a new hobby, others we may not choose such as experiencing someone we care about living with dementia
Whatever the experience, recognising we do have a choice how to feel is empowering.
The brain is a huge computing machine capable of imagination and generating a wide range of emotions. These can be fleeting or they may stay longer. If you don’t like how you are feeling, consider that you can choose to change this. Something may upset you, this is natural as we are feeling beings. However we either choose to carry on feeling sad or we can review the situation, choose to let it pass and move on. Meditation shows that thoughts are transient constantly being replaced.
This is no different to supporting someone on their dementia journey. Perhaps the person with dementia (pwd) starts doing and saying things that you find upsetting. Your reaction to this can make a huge difference to you both.
- Firstly recognising the pwd may be unable to moderate the way they are behaving, due to impaired logic, reasoning or disinhibition, can make a difference to how you respond. Also remember that you are not responsible for anyone else only yourself.
- Ask your self how do I feel about this?
- Is it something I really feel I should challenge?
- If you do consider you should, maybe ask yourself why and is it really going to benefit either of you?
- Look at your feelings? Does it help either of you if you feel angry or upset?
An example – perhaps the pwd is a disinhibited man and is kissing ladies hands and you feel embarassed about this. Consider why? Perhaps you are imaging they would be mortified if they knew what they were doing. The point is they are not the same person they were no more than we are. The experiences life brings changes us. Additionally if other people are understanding and accepting and no one else is upset, is it helpful to yourself to be upset on their behalf especially if the pwd is content?
- Consider how you might look at things from a different perspective?
- Maybe put yourself in the position of a friend being told about the experience. How might you help them? What other perspectives could you offer?
We have been talking about dementia but the technique of perspective can be used in any situation. Recognising in any situation you can choose an alternative is powerful. It may take time to change but you can if you wish to.
Some strategies :
- Consider talking to someone you trust and value. This may bring another perspective.
- If the issue is dementia related perhaps using the online forum Talking Point on the Alzheimer’s Societies website might provide examples of how others have coped in a similar situation.
- Think about where else you might find an answer.
To end: meditation
As usual, once the group session had finished, people had the opportunity to take part in an optional 10 minute guided meditation. Everyone took part, and said how calming it was.