United – Caring For Our Loved Ones Living with Dementia by Gina Awad and Tony Husband Available NOW

The Epitome of Dementia friendly communities…

September is World Alzheimer’s month and Gina Awad leads the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance. Gina explains….

“World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer’s Month was launched in 2012. World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21 September each year.

Illustrated by Award winning Cartoonist Tony Husband for World Alzheimer’s Day 2017

Two out of every three people globally believe there is little or no understanding of dementia in their countries. The impact of World Alzheimer’s Month is growing, but the stigmatisation and misinformation that surrounds dementia remains a global problem, that requires global action”.

I was planning to write a blog post about a dementia related topic but it took little thought as the perfect situation presented itself for which I’m grateful to those involved who have consented for me to share.

At 11.30am on Monday 5 September I had a rare opportunity to pop into town when I hadn’t set myself an imposed deadline.

I needed to pop into Barclays Bank.

As I walked towards the door to leave I noticed the Manager, Tertia, who I’ve linked in with as one of our supportive, dementia action alliance members.

I was keen to make eye contact but very aware she was deeply connected to a man in his late 70’s as she was kneeling on the floor looking up at him. There was also another lady bending down next to the man. I came to learn they were Alan and Lin, father and daughter.

Tertia and I managed a brief second of eye contact. My intuition was to go over and offer any help or support I could but Alan seemed in very capable hands so I continued on my way.

Within seconds I heard a voice calling out at me. It was Tertia. She explained Alan was living with dementia and his daughter was with him but there were some difficulties. She need say no more and I followed her hastily back into the busy High Street branch.

I asked for the context to see how I could help. Lin was very distressed and emotional as I reached out to her and touched her arm for gentle support.

It appeared Alan had arrived in branch alone and his behaviour raised concerns with the staff when Tertia was called over. He was presenting with confusion, some aggression and fear.

Lin held lasting power of attorney for him which was agreed when he had full capacity to make his own decisions before the dementia took hold. She had been called in by the bank.

As the dementia has progressed Alan has begun to become more and more confused and is beginning to see Lin as a traitor, thief and a person that should be avoided at all costs.

As you can imagine Lin is feeling desperately emotional as well as berating herself that she should be able to deal with this having been in the caring profession for much of her life. I reassured her and explained how on earth should this situation be easy to deal with when it’s her dear father who is presenting with anxiety, fear of people, audio hallucinations, confusion and fear (Lin’s words). Alan had previously been a quiet natured, shy but kind and caring man with a wicked sense of humour.  Lin needed reassurance and I felt able to give her just that at that time. What she was dealing with was so tough and I wanted to be able to acknowledge that for her.

In the meantime Tertia offered us a quiet place to talk and have a drink. Lin and I sat and attempted to reflect on some practical issues we could deal with which would help going forward, in the interim.

Tertia and Alan sat in her quiet office and she offered him space to talk with a sense of empowerment. She confessed to having little knowledge of dementia but actually from my perspective she was a natural intuitive who did everything possible to effect the best conclusion. She needs applauding.

It appeared whilst Lin had Power of Attorney for her dad’s affairs and had been called in to help, her dad had shown signs of mistrust which evidently was the dementia and a frequent symptom he struggled with. This made the issue more complicated for the bank. They naturally wanted to respect Alan’s dignity but with limited dementia knowledge were not sure if his description of Lin could have been true. It wasn’t though.

After much conversation, a chat with a local Dementia Friendly lawyer Karyna Squibb from Cartridges Law (thank you Karyna), we managed to glean how more collaboration and sharing was needed to effect the safest support for Alan.

At one point Lin reached her hands out to Tertia and I as we reconvened as 3 to discuss next steps. She shared her sense of relief, support and the fact she would be going home better informed, and expressed her gratitude “you can both go home today and know you’ve done a great job”.

The day after, Tertia and I touched base and she explained how the situation caused her to go home and reflect on the situation quite deeply and how she recognised there was room for improvement around staff understanding and appropriate action in the future. Next time a situation like this arises she would ensure the person was gently escorted to a quiet space, exactly what Alan needed in hindsight she said. Tertia appreciated how when Alan was one on one with her, distraction free it was far easier to support him. I responded explaining how we are all learning about dementia and in the moment we do the best we can but the fresh insight gleaned as a result of this situation is such a positive step forward.

Tertia said “Thank you so much for your support yesterday, without you I would not have been able to support Alan and Lin in the way we did together”.

I document this to illustrate the complexities of dementia, the impact it has on us all, but also to highlight how collaboration, kindness and compassion can make such an enormous difference. In my view this is the epitome of what dementia friendly communities are all about.”