Welcome to the last 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 7 – ‘A good bedside manner’
Even for professionals who have (we hope) been trained in how to broach the subject of dementia, it can be a difficult step. Many doctors and nurses have told me that despite the increased awareness of dementia, raising concerns about the potential development of it to a patient isn’t easy. Indeed, one of the key objections to the idea of screening people for dementia was the way in which it could potentially alter the doctor/patient dynamic, and force very uncomfortable (and in many cases inappropriate) conversations.
During the period of my father’s diagnosis, the medics we met really didn’t cover themselves in glory in terms of their method and manner of communication or their ability to explain, empathize, reassure, personalise or indeed work with us as a family. It was a very prescriptive experience, and we didn’t appreciate the feeling that we were being processed through a system.
A doctor with a genuine concern that a patient is developing dementia should be one of the best-placed people to help that patient, but it should never be about ticking boxes. An empathetic conversation that includes signposting to support and advice is a doctor’s role, but in amongst raising those concerns it is vital to remember that for the majority of patients there will be other people in their life, as I have explored in my last six blog posts, who will also be affected by any potential diagnosis.
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’.