Monday, 24 October 2011

Happy Families

This is a quick reflection on how families cope when a beloved member gets dementia. It takes a while to work out what is happening. When we are close to people we often don't notice changes for a long time. Eventually we realise that things are not as they should be. Diagnosis is not always easy or clear cut. We can get aggravated by behaviours that we think are unnecessary or could be controlled with a little effort. It is all too easy to get into a pattern of being irritated, angry and resentful. We forget who the person was for most of their life and see them only as how they are now.

Sometimes when someone has a terminal illness people feel it is almost easier to behave as though that person was already dead and gone from their lives. This can also happen with dementia.
And yet how much time and pleasure in that person's company is stolen from families if this happens?
We need to be supporting families who struggle to care for a dementia sufferer. At least in a hopsital setting, staff work in shifts, have a life outside and however poorly paid at times have the choice of being there. Likewise the amazing community groups who offer respite care at day centres. They still have the opportunity to be elsewhere.
Families have no such choice. Regardless of the relationships that existed before – good, bad or indifferent, there is an expectation that the family will provide.
It is much more likely that a family will find the energy and willpower to do this if they can interact with their relative with dementia in a meaningful way, a way that gives them something positive not just frustration and grief.
Dramatherapy can give that positive contact. Of course it isn't going to bring back the original person but they will see someone interesting with something to say, original ideas and thoughts and a person in their own right.
We hope that in time this method will be available to family members to enhance their relationship or even build a new one.
Everyone deserves the right to make the best of a really tough situation, not just have to keep coping with what must seem a hopeless situation.
There is a better way.

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