Today with the arrival of Spring we celebrate new life. The arrival of Spring each year is also an opportunity for all Australians to grow in our personal understanding of the chronic illness dementia – the second leading cause of death amongst Australians. (1)
If every Australian improved their understanding of how to respect, connect with and enjoy life with people who have dementia – the quality of life would improve immensely for the 413,000 Australians living with dementia and their family carers.
“You are Not Alone”
For the second year in a row the theme is “You are Not Alone” precisely because people diagnosed with dementia and their carers (family members) do feel socially isolated. Fair-weather friends drop them. Even some family members see them less. It’s so very sad for both the person with a dementia and equally their carer because they really need the friendship, love and companionship of family and friends more than they ever have.
This month Daughterly Care is working harder than ever to “spring forth” a better understanding of dementia to reduce the stigma.
Daughterly Care is providing more and more opportunities for our clients with dementia to enjoy outings and social connection with their peers, whilst supporting them to remain living in their familiar, loved and comfortable homes. One example of this is our Club Connect Lunches overlooking Narrabeen Lake we hold every 2 weeks.
Daughterly Care’s Club Connect at Narrabeen Lake
The Archibald Art Exhibition dramatically improved the speech of a client with dementia
Last Friday we took 3 clients to the Archibald Art Exhibition. One lady is 55 years young with Younger Onset Dementia, and an artist, along with two older ladies in their 80s with different forms of dementia. One of the older ladies has aphasia. This means the part of her brain that allows her to choose and speak her words – is damaged, so she often cannot say what she knows she wants to say. People with aphasia are often treated as stupid or described as “gone” and excluded. We’ll call her Rose, not her real name, but this experience I describe is 100% real.
I know from the Club Connect Lunches I have had with Rose that she understands the conversations being spoken to her and in her company. Rose understands what is being said but mostly can’t find her words so has limited verbal participation in a social setting.
The effect the Archibald Art Exhibition had on Rose was mind blowing!
When Rose returned from the Archibald she couldn’t stop talking!
Rose’s High Care Case Manager Suzie, Live in Carer and I were overjoyed to witness Rose talk for over 30 minutes non-stop.
✓ initiated conversation with us;
✓ spoke in whole sentences;
✓ expressed herself perfectly;
✓ answered questions perfectly;
✓ was joyful; and
✓ appeared to have improved self esteem.
Rose told us this was her favourite art piece from the Archibald.
Winner of the ANZ People’s Choice Award, Anh Do for his portrait of Indigenous actor Jack Charles, 2017 Archibald Prize. ‘Jack’s face is full of character,’ says Do. ‘I wanted the painting to capture his gravitas but also the loneliness that has been his constant companion. I mixed wet and semi-dried paint to create a texture that would evoke mountains and waterfalls, tree bark, fallen leaves, clouds and rain to encapsulate the beauty of the Australian landscape inside this beautiful man’s face.’
What was even more pleasing was that Rose continued to talk really well the following day to her daughter!
In our experience, people with a form of dementia are never “demented” as I heard a member of the public describe someone last week. Words like “demented” have to be banned – they show the ignorance of the person who use them and they are so very demeaning.
People are never “gone”. Their essential spirit remains. They retain their human dignity and it is we, the people without dementia, who must use our intelligence and abilities to try harder to understand and connect with and assist them to live joyfully, despite the challenges of their dementia diagnosis.
Please post this link on social media or send a link to this blog to a family member or friend who would benefit from a better understanding that dementia is complex and often unique to each person. The best support you can provide is to continue to be there for the person with a dementia and their care partner.Kate Lambert
Daughterly Care CEO & Co-Founder