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Dementia and Human Rights – Part 15


So to complete this series of blogs, it is probably worth having a little round up.  There are a number of pieces of legislation relating to people with dementia, some emanating from English jurisdiction, some from European source and some worldwide international from the UN and we have taken a journey through them all.


But what does Human Rights and Dementia really mean?  It means that people with Dementia are still people; they should be treated with dignity and respect, like all people should.  They are not different, more fragile, unhuman, alien or anything else, they are people and they are people first before they are their diagnosis.  We all have idiosyncrasies, those little things about us that make us who we are and those things change over time as we grow and develop at humans.  People with dementia are the same, it is just that some of their idiosyncrasies relate to their dementia.


So how would any of us feel if we were treated unfairly or even differently because we don’t like cheese or we really, really like cheese a lot!!? Or we drink tea with loads of milk or hardly any, all these things make us who we are, they are part of our character and yet we expect to be treated like everyone else in spite of these preferences, or maybe because of them.   I’m not equating milk preference to dementia, all I’m saying is that we are all individuals, we are all unique and special and for someone with dementia, their dementia is part of their specialness.  That’s how people with dementia are still people.


But what about their Human Rights?  It is important as far as possible to ignore that they have dementia and treat them the same as everyone else, but what about when you can’t ignore it?  That is the time that reasonable adjustments should be made, that we provide compassion and non judgemental support to those people.


The Dementia Friends movement is spreading the message of Dementia Awareness and importantly one of the key messages is that kindness counts.  People with dementia may not be able to remember the words you said, but they will remember for a much longer time that you were kind to them.  Surely that’s the same for everyone, surely we all want to be treated by others in a kindly manner!!


So yes, we may have to say the same thing more than once, but it is about being kindly, not bad tempered about it.  Dementia is eventually a terminal illness, we don’t know how long the journey to death is going to be, but death is coming – it’s coming for all of us! So Human Rights and Dementia is about making sure that they are treated well, with kindness and forethought into what they want, to empower them to make decisions for themselves.


I was involved in the discharge from hospital of someone with a memory issue.  They were fed up, as they had waited all day and the bed had been changed, so they did not want to get back into bed where it was more comfortable, so they sat in an uncomfortable chair.  Hours later, they understandably wanted to go, so we took verbal advice, as the discharge letter wasn’t ready and left.  That person was really happy to get home, we chatted on the way out & they were glad someone had not just listened, but actually heard them.  They were settled at home, food made and they had a good nights sleep.  We chatted to make sure that they knew what to do & everything was fine.  The “reasonable adjustment” that were made was around making sure that they were reminded what to do and once they remembered we could move on.  That person was treated with respect and their wishes respected, they were treated with dignity, although they could have been treated more kindly in hospital, rather than being left to be sat in a very uncomfortable chair all day.  It probably wasn’t convenient for the nurse, but so what, no-one was rude, the process merely consisted of safely arranging for the wishes of the person to be granted.


So Human Rights and Dementia – it’s about being a person first and compassionately and with care, making the necessary adjustments to respect their wishes.  They are people first!  Respecting our wishes is what we all want, our wishes are our dreams and that’s how are dreams come true!