I am Kritika and I work with seniors who have a condition called dementia, which is marked by memory loss and difficulties in thinking, problem solving and language. I would like to share an experience here, so that other people in a similar situation can learn from it.
Respect, acceptance and love are important in every relationship. This is specially true when dealing with an elderly who has dementia. Acceptance of their condition, and being patient and respectful with them is crucial, as it has a significant impact on their condition and personality.
I realized the importance of these two things when I was working with one of my elderly clients. She is one of the most cheerful ladies I have met. She always greets me with a big smile on her face, and then pretends to be upset when she realizes that she has forgotten to do a task I gave her in the previous session. She knows she has dementia and accepts that she cannot remember everything due to this problem. She once told me that she tries to find humor in everything as she likes to be happy always.
While working with her I realized that more than the person with dementia, it is important for the family to accept the situation and be sensitive towards the elderly.
The people at my client’s home, especially the household confuse her condition with insanity and call her names and use abusive language. It makes me sad and helpless to see that despite telling them, and sometimes even fighting with them, to behave respectfully with her, they still refer to her as a ‘mad woman’ who forgets her way back home and does not know how to wear matching clothes. As a result of this constant negative feedback, with time she has started calling herself mad. Sometimes I cannot understand who the patient is – the smiling lady who thinks she is mad, or the people who force her to think that.
People have difficulty accepting things they don’t understand, and this makes the task of sensitizing them hard. But I will continue my effort for this, and stop only when she gets her self-esteem and respect back.