Discussing Dementia – An opportunity to share and learn

Rachel Tanner, Glenview Community Services

 

Abstract

Glenview provides support for nearly 100 residents in their residential facility with 19 – 24 residents living or spending their day in our dementia support unit.

 

Glenview identified visitors, be it a family member or friend, often struggle to maintain good relationships with the person with dementia that they love. Families said they felt confronted and uncomfortable as their relationships changed and found communication challenging; they didn’t know the “right way” to talk to the person they loved and they felt worried they might say or do the “wrong thing”. In addition to this many were also confronted and concerned about the way they interacted with other residents, particularly those in the dementia support unit who have significant levels of dementia.

The culmination of these factors frequently resulted in fraught interactions between residents and their visitors leading to distress on both sides that significantly altered relationships; some family and friends ultimately decided to visit less often.  This outcome was distressing for everyone involved and, whilst staff offered personal support to families, it was clear this wasn’t enough. Glenview decided to commence a program, Discussing Dementia, to provide interested families and friends the opportunity to learn about dementia and gain the skills to communicate more effectively, cope with the day to day challenges and hopefully improve their relationships with people living with dementia. It is an opportunity to discuss dementia, in an open and supportive environment with other people who are going through, or have been through, similar experiences.

The hope was, that after participating in Discussing Dementia, visitors would feel more comfortable visiting the dementia support unit and the increase in their knowledge and confidence would improve the time they spent with the person they loved; enabling both residents and visitors to enjoy the visit and maintain and develop their relationship.

 

This presentation will discuss the why and the how of the meetings; what happened in the meetings, the impact the meetings had for participants, residents and staff and how this translated into relaxed and comfortable visits and improved relationships for everyone involved.  It will showcase the highlights as well as the problems and provide useful information to help others create their own Discussing Dementia program.

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