Article submitted by Joy C. Davidson, End of Life Coach, Pastor, Author, Speaker, owner of Joyful Transitions, LLC. Joy can be reached at 720-244-2660.
The Dementia Friendly Community Movement. Sound familiar? Probably not. This movement is very strong in England, Ireland, and Scotland, while in the United States there is little awareness. As Bob DeMarco, Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room (http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com), stated in the article entitled “Dementia Friendly Community Movement” posted on September 3, 2013, “in the U.S. we get lots of powerful, well known politicians and people constantly reminding us how dire the situation is, and about how the Armageddon is coming”. I wholeheartedly concur with Bob; I have seen and heard umpteen, bazillion proclamations about the dire situation we are facing in the United States. Frankly, I wish the people issuing these proclamations would shut up, roll up their sleeves, and as Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) in one of his film says, “put foot to mouth”.
I also want to continue my discussion of various points of interest from the book, How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders” by David Solie, M.S., P.A., and then, believe it or not, actually tie my discussion back with the previous paragraph about The Dementia Friendly Community Movement. Prior to the end of World War II, the dominant child-rearing philosophy was “children should be seen and not heard”. As the babies of the Baby-Boomer Generation began to arrive, the parents of these children became much more child-focused and more determined to understand how their children developed. As they bought and adsorbed books such as Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, they developed a deeper appreciation for the developmental agenda of children. Now is the time for us to allow that “deeper appreciation” to shed light and give understanding about the developmental agenda of our older adults, our elders.
David Solie says “seniors’ developmental tasks compel them to maintain control over their lives in the face of almost daily losses, and simultaneously to discover their legacy, or that which will live on after them”. An older adult’s attempt to accomplish this agenda will manifest itself in communication challenges that might confuse us: Apparent random wanderings from subject to subject, repetition upon repetition of stories we have heard many times, postponement of decisions (even urgent decisions), or the description of something in extensive detail. Here is where the fun begins: While older adults are engaging in these communication behaviors, we are focused on our agenda. Our agenda is one of power: Completing lists upon lists, typing proposals on the computer, emailing co-workers or clients, remodeling our house, landscaping our backyard, running our kids to their various sporting events and practices, and checking more things off of our lists. We don’t understand how important the issue of control is to our older adults, because we are in control! However, to that older adult facing multiple losses, the issue is HUGE!
Do you see the conflict? It is also HUGE! And there is only one resolution: facilitation. Our older adults are not interested, nor able, to participate in checking tasks off our list, so it is our responsibility as the younger generation(s) to facilitate their need for control and the emergence of their legacy. If we don’t back off, but instead insist on pushing our agenda of what task should be done and when, we are effectively fighting them for control. I think David Solie phrases it well when he says the ramifications of the choice to back off or not are “the difference between a life that fades away and one that is cherished by succeeding generations”. A life that fades away is a person that was a developmental orphan and the emergence of their legacy was never facilitated.
In future articles, I will talk about examples of that type of facilitation might look like as well as examples of what those conversations might look like. In the meantime, let’s circle back to the Dementia Friendly Community Movement and what that has to do with facilitating the developmental agenda of our older adults.
Dementia Friendly Communities (summarized from the article on Alzheimer’s Reading Room) are:
- Shaped by the desires / wishes of people living with dementia as well as their caregivers
- Working to reduce the stigma associated with dementia while increasing understanding of it
- Offering activities specific to the needs of those with dementia and being more inclusive in the offering of leisure and entertainment activities
- Acknowledging that people with dementia can make a positive contribution to their community and encourage them to do so
- Working towards early diagnosis
- Offering facilitated engagement in community life
- Offering community-based solutions to support people living with dementia in whatever care situation they choose
- Offering travel options that are sensitive to the needs of those living with dementia
- Offering environments that are easy to navigate
- Offering businesses and services with staff that are aware of the symptoms of dementia so they are able to respond appropriately and respectfully
As I look at this broad list of what is a Dementia Friendly Community, I see a description for a community that wants to be aware of and support its older adults in completion of their developmental agenda, even if that older adult is dealing with the challenges of dementia.
I recognize many benefits were gained with the advent of the industrial revolution, but I also recognize that we lost relationships. We lost the communal relationships that allowed the older adults to balance the inexperience of youth. We lost the communal relationships that naturally adapted to the agenda of older adults and naturally facilitated the emergence of their legacy. Concepts such as the Eden Alternative, the Dementia Friendly Community, and books such as David Solie’s book are brining that deeper appreciation for our older adults and their agendas, the rights and respect that they are due, and, finally, the part we MUST play in the reclamation of those relationships and the wisdom of our elders.
My dream: Each and every one of you join me in seeking to live reclaimed relationships with the older adults in your life every single day and then tell me about the lives that are being changed. I bet the life-changing stories start with you!
More about Joy Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC
Founded in 2011, Joy C. Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC, are a voice of experience working with older adults and their families as they face changes, seek late in life purpose, and search for the resources and confidence to live a powerful life. Our support is available through speaking and educational presentations and curriculum.
© 2013, All Rights Reserved by Joy C, Davidson, Joyful Transitions, LLC
Posted September 2013 on www.SeniorsResourceGuide.com