Why is dementia awareness training increasingly important?

Why is dementia awareness training increasingly important?

Posted by Amanda Furness

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The statistical facts about dementia

In Britain, we live in an ageing society with more and more people working for longer as the State Pension age is increased. Alzheimer’s Research UK put the figure of those given a dementia diagnosis by their GP or memory service at 537,097.  However, not everyone with dementia has a diagnosis and the NHS estimates 850,000 people in the UK have dementia.   The forecast is that this number will increase to 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2050.  Although the likelihood of developing dementia increases with age, and mainly affects those over 65, over 42,000 people in the UK under 65 have dementia.

Why are these dementia facts important to me?

What the above statistics point to, is that it is not only those in the care and service industries who need to know how best to communicate with someone who has dementia.  Anyone in the workplace should also be aware, as many people may start with symptoms whilst they are working.  Also, as many people live well for years after their diagnosis, with the correct adjustments, many are able to continue to work.  Dementia in the workplace may therefore become more common over the coming years.  As there are many ways that we can all communicate with, and help support those with dementia, awareness is important for us all.

Some tips for communicating with someone with dementia

  • Prepare yourself for the conversation, take a moment beforehand to calm yourself down if you feel rushed and make sure you allow enough time.
  • Find a good place to talk where the person can see you clearly and there are likely to be few distractions or interruptions.
  • Consider your position, be close to the person but not invading their personal space and be at the same level they are, not standing up if they are sitting down and vice versa.
  • Have open and relaxed body language and be aware of other forms of communication such as facial expressions and gestures.
  • Speak clearly, using short sentences and giving clear choices but try not to be patronising.
  • Give time for a response, allowing silences and re-frame a question if your initial one wasn’t understood.
  • Use active listening skills, rephrasing their response to check you have understood correctly if in any doubt.
  • Talk about one idea/subject at a time and, if necessary, break the topic into smaller parts.
  • Include the person with dementia in conversations with others as this can help them to feel less isolated and excluded and increase their feeling of being valued, as well as helping them to keep their sense of identity.
  • Remember it’s alright to use humour and laugh together at any misunderstandings as this can release tension and bring you closer together.  Crucially though, ensure you always laugh with and not at the person with dementia.

Dementia awareness training

In Equilibrium have trainers who are experienced at delivering training in this area.  We can offer two courses:

  1. An introductory workshop for people who have had little or no training in dementia care
  2. A course for those who have already attended an introductory dementia course.  This workshop focuses on working with people with dementia to provide good practice in person-centred care.

As ever, we are happy to discuss exact requirements and provide a tailor-made course to fulfill your exact needs.

Sources for further reading

The following are by no means an exhaustive list but each provides valuable information and some signpost to further resources.

Creating a dementia friendly workplace – a guide for employers 

Deep, the UK Network of Dementia Voices, has many helpful resources and guides both for people who have dementia and for organisations and communities who want to be more dementia friendly

Dementia in the workplace case study research: understanding the experiences of individuals, colleagues and managers

People with dementia can continue to work

The Alzheimer’s Society produce a wide range of fact-sheets 

The NHS has a Dementia Guide

7 things not to say to someone with dementia


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