Think about a super partnership in your life. This may be with a family member, a coworker, or a dear friend. Now jot down all of the fine qualities that that individual possesses and how s/he adds to the value of your life. Kindness, organization, a good listener, a helper, someone who follows through… Those are just a few of the qualities that pop into my mind. Recently I have discovered, too, that I need those who are ready and willing to provide me with a hug of support when I am feeling down. What a difference this can make in making my spirits soar.
In relationship-centered care and relationship-centered situations, I would also like to think that my caregiver/my care partner/my instructor also exemplifies these characteristics. I realize that for many hugging is taboo, however, for me human touch is essential. I do know of friends who become nervous and discontent with touch and I have learned to carefully avoid entering space where I will not be welcome. This last awareness is vital for relationship-centered instances because it reflects that I truly understand the wants and needs of myself as well as those of another individual.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada worked in partnership with persons living with dementia to understand what it takes to develop an authentic partnership versus just being there and completing a job. Three guiding concepts include promoting empowerment and equality, sharing decision making responsibilities, and incorporating diverse perspectives. How valuable for one living with dementia to be appreciated as a thinking, feeling individual with particular outlooks, insights, perspectives, and desires.
First let’s consider empowerment and equality. The best bosses I ever had appreciated my dedication and hard work, my willingness to try new things, my eagerness to demonstrate my talents and abilities. When reeling in was necessary, they also knew how to complete this without making me feel foolish, stupid, or as if I had wasted my time. They simply offered advice and a dose of reality and then set me loose once more to grow, develop, and create. Negative bosses, and fortunately there were few, sat in prey, ready to defeat me at every corner. I have avoided these people whenever I could or released myself form them as quickly as I possibly could.
I have also enjoyed being a critical part of decision making even though I have often lacked the authority to be the final voice. My views were accepted, evaluated, mulled, and perhaps reshaped (or set on a shelf for another time) for greater success. Never was I side-lined or tossed away as worthless. Well, okay, maybe once and I confess the feelings haunt me still.
Finally, it is so important to be able to take perspectives. I admit that there are times that I carry this to the extreme as a muddle through a plan trying to be certain that everyone is happy. Eventually I have been able to analyze the parts to create a successful home. No, this never pleases everyone but it most often gets the job done.
These 3 concepts are needed when supporting an individual with dementia. While sometimes his/her announcements and ideas do not appear to logically match the situation, they are still announcements and ideas of a human being. As a result I must listen, ask more questions, jot notes, maintain patience, and recognize when the discussion has become overwhelming and must be returned to at a later time. We must pause, take a breath, think and rethink, and then carry on with renewed hope and appropriate vigor. How lovely it is for each of us to be accepted for who and what we are; how beautiful it is to offer this same acceptance to someone with dementia.