Rights and responsibilities for people with dementia
The key thing to remember with people with dementia, is that they are still people, they are not just their diagnosis. As a person, they will have a history, a personality and preferences, to name just a few of the facets of their humanity.
People, all people, including people with dementia deserve to have their human rights acknowledged and respected. As people lose memory, understanding and the ability to effectively communicate, as time and their dementia progresses, this does not discharge anyone from their obligations towards people with dementia and their associated right to be treated in a dignified manner.
Dementia is a disability and within UK law, requires “reasonable adjustments” on behalf of others to try to allow that person to live as normal a life as possible in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. That is the able-bodied responsibility towards people with dementia. It is also an ethical humanity obligation to have compassion for people living with dementia and the journey that they will be on.
Because people with dementia have preferences, such as preferring either tea or coffee as the first drink of the day or maybe a different drink altogether. Then whichever is their preference should be provided to them and the obligation is upon the carer, either professional or family to find out about the person and what they would like to have. It is easy to see them as a disabled person or an old person or an unwell person, but within all of those constructs of them, they are always a person!
The person with dementia has the right to request to be treated like others, but because of their impairment, they may have difficulty having their voice heard for their rights to be respected, which makes them vulnerable to not being treated well and potentially to be inadvertently dehumanised. People with dementia need to be thought of as being this person, not just any person, but this one person. When they are remembered as a unique individual they will be cared for appropriately. The time it takes for those moments of kindness are minimal and the compassion to ensure that someone gets a cup of tea instead of a cup of coffee takes little effort, but has a big impact on the wellbeing of the person.
Let us all remember the humanity of people living with terminal and life limiting health conditions.