Having a role after a dementia diagnosis
Since starting my Assistant Psychologist post in a memory assessment service in April, I have learnt a lot about the older generations and I feel extremely lucky to acquire some of their wisdom and life lessons at this early stage in my career. In a memory assessment service, we often see older people who are experiencing early cognitive changes. What particularly stands out is the difference in people who are cognitively stimulated and those who spend the majority of their days alone, with nobody to interact with.
When chatting away during appointments, I have noticed older people often reminisce with a smile about their past, including their careers when they had a role in society and felt like they were appreciated. Seeing their face light up during these moments of remembrance, it made me wonder… why do they no longer have a role in society? Why can’t we adapt job roles to their needs? A diagnosis of dementia does not deem somebody incapable; many retain an abundance of skills which should be used.
When I saw the advertisement for a new TV show called The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes on Channel 4, I was immediately excited to see how simply having a role could be beneficial to one’s mood and self-esteem. During the course of the four episodes, viewers observed people with a range of different types of Dementia take on roles of chefs, kitchen assistants and waiters, and how this new lease of life improved their life satisfaction. Many of the participants had successful careers prior to their diagnosis of dementia, but they soon stopped working after finding their roles more difficult due to the changes they were experiencing.
At the end of the experiment, after weeks of learning new skills and challenging themselves, the difference in some of the participants was astonishing. Even though they faced many obstacles, they made new friends and felt valued. It was clear to see from an outsider’s point of view that their mood had improved hugely, and this was supported by the tests of depression which showed a significant improvement in their happiness. It was also refreshing to see at the end that many businesses were now working to be dementia friendly, and many of the participants continued to work or volunteer in roles suited to their needs.
Upon reflection of the series, I was delighted to see how joyful the participants were after taking on their new roles. I was hopeful for the future that many other businesses will follow suit, but I also felt deflated that many other people with dementia could be feeling insignificant. I urge all professionals to take something meaningful from this experiment and be more aware of how a dementia diagnosis can impact upon a person’s life. I also urge businesses to make adaptations to job roles, so that people with dementia can maintain a sense of independence and appreciation. The older generations have supported us, let’s support them in this new chapter of their life.
- Reviewed by Amy Breed, an Assistant Psychologist working in a memory assessment service in Greater Manchester.
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