There is a common tendency to address these challenges with simple or complicated solutions more befitting of the inanimate. We believe the best solutions, while ever-changing, will come from the community itself, and each community is different.
This internship was not starting as I expected. My intuition told me more depth was possible. Trying not to do anything felt very strange. My whole life had been spent doing. I was good at doing.
Long-term care residents living with dementia labeled as “aggressive” when they engage in distressing and harmful “resident-to-resident incidents” are in reality expressing real human needs and frustrations that are not being met by understaffed, undertrained, and inadequately supervised direct care staff members.
Changing the culture is hard, and it involves struggle. That struggle doesn’t start in a shopping cart, whether online or at Walmart. It starts between our ears, with the uncomfortable task of confronting our own, largely unconscious, age bias.
No matter how much we wish for simple answers, life does not work that way. In order to navigate life, we must embrace its complexity. Dementia support is no different.
One of the biggest problems with the life “stages” notion is the expectations and “rules” that go along with them: I’m an adult now, I should act grown up; I have a family, I should be responsible; I’m old so I should act my age and move to a retirement home.
For improvisers, Yes And means you accept what the other player presents you with, without blocking it or denying it, and then you react constructively to it. You add to it. I invite you to join me in improvising our way through these later years. It’s easier than you think.
An ophthalmologist, my husband Jack underwent years of medical training. When he reflects on this time – particularly the earliest parts of it—he, like many of his ilk, admits to at least a fleeting period of preoccupation with getting or having the symptoms of the diseases he studied. I’ve always wondered, when regaled with his harrowing clinical tales, if such an analog to medical-student syndrome exists and what it might look like for my colleagues and I who study gerontology.