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C.A.R.E. for dementia: A call for greater awareness

Deena Heaney, Dementia Lead at Macc Care

Deena Heaney, Dementia Lead at Macc Care

We need to remember that dementia is an illness, the person living with it is always a person. We need to continue to talk about dementia, we need to dispel myths and we need to stop these fears, because so many people have got so many strange misconceptions.

With 70% of people living with dementia going missing at least once, the chances of encountering someone with dementia who is in need of assistance is higher than you might think. And when you factor in that two thirds of people with dementia are still living in their own home as opposed to a care setting, the chances are even higher.

Recently, during a trip to the local supermarket, I came across a lady that very obviously had a nightdress underneath her coat, had slippers on, and was looking exceptionally anxious. I looked around for the staff who just stared at her, not really knowing what to do.

Putting my ‘work brain’ on, I intervened and asked if I could help. I walked around with her, supported her and we went to the till together. She paid for her items and she went off on her way. I then spoke to the staff afterwards and asked if they recognised that the lady was quite anxious and distressed. They thought it was due to the fact they’d moved around the bread that she comes in to buy every day.

Without diagnosing anybody, it is very possible that the woman is living with a cognitive impairment or some form of dementia, and the reason that she comes into the shop every day is because it’s familiar. The shop assistants may be the only people that that lady sees in a day. She might not need the bread, it’s about socialisation. It’s really important to recognise what a person is still capable of doing on their own so that they can be helped to maintain their independence. This situation also proved how common such an interaction can be, which explains the need for greater awareness.

Macc Care conducted further research that found 59% of the public would be likely to approach and help someone who looked lost/confused in the street, and who they suspected had dementia – but only 10% would be confident in what to do. To aid in this, I came up with a simple acronym that forms a basic checklist to help people both recognise and remember what to do. Think C.A.R.E:

C – Communicate. Ensure your communication is positive, and that you listen to what the person has to say – with the emphasis on two way communication.

A – Act. Do something to help the person with their anxiety and stay with them.

Does the person recall their name / Where they live?

R – Reassure. Let the person know it’s OK and that they’ll be fine.

E – Empathise. Put yourself in the person’s shoes. How would you feel?

The F.A.S.T acronym has proven to be enormously successful as a message on what to do when faced with potential stroke symptoms. And while a stroke and dementia are two very different illnesses, the aim is the same, to help people to think quickly on the spot.

The aim of C.A.R.E. is to raise awareness for everybody who lives in our communities. We want to support families and those who may be the prime carer with the confidence to think, if Mum should happen to go out the wrong door or down the wrong street, people will know how to support her. Ultimately, dementia isn’t just about helping someone with memory loss, there are lots of other things — daily living skills, independence and ensuring that the person is holistically supported.

Kirsty

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