Welcome to the fifth of my seven ‘mini’ blogs for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2014.
Concerns that a person is developing dementia aren’t just restricted to that individual – they also affect those closest to them, bringing complex relationships into play. Over this Awareness Week I want to look at some of the emotions and reactions that underpin the difficult conversations thousands of people are having, or thinking of having, as they open up about dementia.
Day 5 – ‘Being neighbourly’
As the theme tune for a popular Australian soap told me throughout my youth, ‘Everybody needs good neighbours’. Sadly a lot of neighbourly spirit has gone out of UK society, but caring about those living near to us is a key aim in making our communities friendlier for all who live in them.
If a person is developing dementia, particularly if they live alone and have few visitors, the people best placed to help them can be their neighbours. From checking on an older person during bad weather, to helping someone living near to you who may become very needy or persistently lock themselves out, being a good neighbour can make a real difference to an individual who is developing dementia. It can also help to prevent the isolation that is so often a precursor to a diagnosis of dementia.
If a neighbour’s patterns of behaviour change dramatically, you may be the only person who notices that and is in a position to help them. Offering companionship and talking to them about your observations, rather than just ignoring them, is really at the heart of any friendly community.
Opening up to a person you know about your concerns that they may be developing dementia is a conversation most people dread and many seek to postpone for as long as possible. For help and advice on how to broach the topic of dementia, read my blog post ‘Having THAT conversation’.