Thursday, August 7, 2014 — Deron Hamel
Many people find it challenging and awkward to spend time with a loved one who has cognitive impairment, but it doesn’t have to be this way, says dementia expert Rachel Johnstone.
The U.K.-based Johnstone, who authored a new book called Dementia and the Family, says family members of people with dementia are often feeling guilty about not doing enough during visits to long-term care homes. As a result, visits often become fewer and far between and the person with dementia is then at risk of experiencing feelings of increased isolation.
Johnstone says people need to understand that although those living with dementia may forget what happened during a visit, the positive emotion connected to the event remains.
So what can family members and friends of people with dementia do to make visits less awkward and more enjoyable?
For starters, Johnstone urges people to maximize resources they already have. Her book lists more than 160 different activities such as playing music, dancing and sensory stimulation — especially activities that engage one’s sense of smell.
“Using smells as a basis for activity — such as baking cookies and brewing coffee, oiling a cricket bat with linseed oil, visiting a cobblers shop and even taking part in a smelling guessing game, called Loto des Odeurs — is something I talk about in the book,” Johnstone says in a recent interview with Carehome.co.uk.
“Activities allow the person behind the dementia to shine through, create real moments of togetherness and provide opportunities for your loved one to do the things they enjoy doing.”
Dementia is not the sum total of a person, Johnstone says. What’s crucial is for the family and friends of a person with dementia to break down the barriers of dementia through engaging activities to help get at the true essence of the person and their character.
“For me, there is no greater pleasure than getting to know a person who has truly lived their life — and dementia shouldn’t stand in the way of this,” she tells Carehome.co.uk.
Click here for more information on Johnstone, her book and links about dementia.
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