19 December 2019
People with dementia face an identity crisis. Who am I? Who will I become? Dementia brings fear of the future, of decline and of death in a state of unknowing. Many people with dementia can no longer be defined by their work or their hobbies or their regular life, so feel less valued by society and often by themselves.
This exclusion from many of their regular activities brings with it isolation from the people in their lives. Regardless of where people with dementia reside, they also often begin to isolate themselves usually due to not knowing how to speak about what they are feeling. They then cease to engage in many forms of social and/or physical stimulating activity.
This low level of meaningful engagement can cause problems due to boredom and loneliness that may lead to challenging behaviours such as aggression, odd behaviour or absconding as frustrations are expressed over the lack of stimulation their current environment provides.
The other people affected by this illness are the families, as it brings a new level of responsibility and caring to them. It also affects our intimate relationships. Seek to understand what is happening to a person with dementia – not from a medical perspective, but from their personal experience. Get to the heart of the matter, there are no ‘fix it’ options with this illness, so it is important to define people with dementia by who they are; partners, parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, workmates, etc rather than by the symptoms of the disease.
A potential way to alleviate the issues of boredom/loneliness and also assist with the expression of feelings regarding their personal experiences with this illness is via engagement with multiple people with dementia in a group setting. Group activities can provide individuals with dementia the opportunity to interact with both staff members and other people with dementia within a social context while being engaged, supported and supervised in a shared activity.
Studies into group activities for people with dementia have found that the environment and type of activities impact positively on engagement levels of the individuals taking part in the activity, which in turn, influences the behaviours of participants with dementia in other parts of their day-to-day life. These studies also found that participation in group activities has noticeable effects on slowing the progression of dementia, further improving quality of life with marked decline in feelings of frustration and isolation as well as overall improved behaviours and sense of wellbeing for participants of group activities.
Interchange Australia currently provides a men’s dementia group on Thursdays whereby participants catch up for morning tea at a local coffee shop in the Southern Highlands followed by some recreational activities such as golf, bowling, snooker, etc. The group is made up of a small number of participants supported by our friendly staff who share in the activity alongside the guys. We also are working towards establishing a women’s dementia group commencing in 2020 under the same structure as the men’s group.
If you would like more information on Interchange Australia’s dementia group or any of the other wonderful supportive services we provide please feel free to contact our office on 4868 6688 or visit our website: www.interchangeau.org or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/interchangeau