One of our service managers explains how we supported Mary to keep her abilities, interests and wellbeing intact, despite the onset of dementia.
Mary was born in 1922 and has spent the majority of her life in institutional care. We began supporting her in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2001 that she was diagnosed with dementia.
Mary’s needs are typically stable, but every now and then, there is a notable deterioration in her ability and general wellbeing. Usually this will require adaptations to her care and support, as her needs increase.
For the first 12 years that Mary was supported by us, we focused on offering her opportunities to experience a variety of things in life, and encouraged her to make choices wherever possible. Mary was always a fiercely independent and dignified lady, taking great pride in her appearance. She had a wonderful sense of humour, was always on the move and was very astute.
As time has gone on and the dementia has progressed, Mary tends to prefer not to make decisions or be given choices; instead, telling staff ‘they know best’. She has a very poor appetite, is often tired during the day and no longer sleeps well at night. Mary is reliant on staff to ensure all of her basic needs are met. Plus, her loss of ability means we have to think on her behalf, and be mindful of offering the things she used to enjoy, want or need on a regular basis.
We continue to encourage Mary to participate wherever possible, but the truth is that many of her original abilities have either faded, or been lost. Nowadays, engagement may be as simple as watching or talking to you whilst you – for example – prepare a meal. It’s a constant balance between the need for stimulation (which is reported to slow down the progression of dementia) with the need for rest.
We have supported Mary to maintain her skills and independence, but have also gently and discreetly increased our support as her needs have changed. I believe that by continuing to encourage Mary to participate, we have helped her keep her abilities and skills for longer, thus giving her a better quality of life.