Updated: Jul 23, 2020
My first real experience of caring for people living with Dementia was with both my parents, who had probably lived with it for two or three years, before we began to suspect. I was to find out later that this is quite common, and that the person concerned may develop strategies to conceal it from their families, often with the collusion of a partner.
Over the following years, I was to learn the hard way of the vagaries of dementia. I often bemoaned the lack of a hand- book that explained what I should do.
Purely by chance, my wish was granted when I came across an article by Oliver James mentioning a book called Contented Dementia.
A week later and I had devoured each, and every word. The guidelines or golden rules weren’t easy at first, but with practice they were doable.
According to Contented Dementia, we don’t just know stuff, our memory system is the equivalent of a Photograph Album, which falls open naturally on today’s page and in which a continual stream of ‘photographs’ of our latest experience, are flying in. Each ‘photograph’ contains facts and feelings. So, when we say, ‘Let me think’ we are actually saying, ‘let me consult my album,’ to extract the necessary details.
As we age, the length of time we need to spend looking in our album increases, and we may well find that the conversation has moved on before we are able to access the correct page and photograph.
People living with dementia continue to store photographs, but from time to time the photograph stored will contain only feelings and not facts.
Contented Dementia offers three golden rules:-
Never contradict (it is always ‘silly me’ and ‘never silly you.’)
Never ask a question (which is particularly difficult, as this is the most common method we use to converse)
Listen to the expert (the person living with dementia) and consider what the best response to a question may be. (e.g. constant questions about the long dead family pet dog may best be responded to by saying that he is asleep) with the sole aim, to put the person concerned at their ease.
My last parent died in 2012, but I wanted to put something back, as a thank you for all the help and support that I had received when I needed it most. I became an advocate for Contented Dementia and would barge uninvited into random conversations, wherever and whenever I overheard the word Dementia.
I am currently studying to become a coach for Contented Dementia, and if successful I will go on to become a Practitioner.
If you, like me, want to discover ways of creating contentment in dementia, I encourage you to read the book or visit the website and explore the resource available there:
Advocate for Contented Dementia