Welcome to the fourth of my seven blog posts for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2015.
This year’s Dementia Awareness Week centres around the theme of doing something new for people with dementia, under the mantra that ‘Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins’. For many people living with dementia in care homes, however, a lack of opportunities to have meaningful occupation and activity, or even just enjoy the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted, can lead to life feeling like it really has ended.
Over this Dementia Awareness Week (DAW2015) I want to look at some of the positive things relatives and staff can do to enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. They may be new things, or they may be old favourites, but they all share in the ability to turn a boring day into something a little bit more special.
Day 4: Learning
Very few people associate education with people who live in care homes. The common misconception is that individuals who move into care homes have learnt all they are going to learn and are either incapable, or will soon become incapable, of learning anything new. If you ever wanted a greater example of how to debunk these myths, however, then look no further than this inspiring film from ‘Learning for the Fourth Age’.
Learning is both possible, and in fact highly recommended for people at any age and stage of life. For people who are living with dementia it can help with self-esteem, mental agility, confidence, independence and offer a really tangible opportunity to enhance wellbeing. Learning is also a great way to bring families together, with education bridging gaps between generations and enabling younger relatives to teach their older loved ones new skills that they have already mastered (perhaps with technology, a topic I wrote about for yesterday’s blog), and indeed vice versa – never underestimate the things you can learn from spending time with older people.
Education in care homes really can be anything from gardening to pottery, painting to learning a musical instrument, reading books to learning songs or even a new language – the only limit is your imagination and the interests the person with dementia, their family and care workers have. If your budget allows you may consider bringing in external tutors who can provide specialist learning support, but don’t ignore the often untapped talent that lies within the many individuals who make up a care home. Residents, staff and family groups are often very diverse in their skillset and interests, including cultural diversity and the ability to teach skills learnt in distant childhood lands that you would otherwise have to travel many miles to experience.
Whether you decide to pursue group learning or one-to-one classes, just make sure you never forget the power of people with dementia as educators in their own right – with rich life histories, you might just be surprised what people remember how to do and could teach you!
More information, tips and advice on learning can be found in my Huffington Post blog:
Next post on 21 May 2015.