Module 3 - Attitude

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4 min 24 sec
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A simple word that is so important when working or caring for someone who has dementia is attitude. If your attitude isn't right, then it will be impossible to form a successful conversation. Attitude is moulded by our emotions, and people who have dementia will often instantly pick up on any emotions that you show. This is the reason why so many families with emotional attachments have negative reactions when they approach the person with dementia, it's all because they don't understand the impact that emotions have on a dementia brain compared with their healthy brain. People with dementia will use the emotions you exhibit, they will then translate them as to whether to have a conversation with you or not, feelings such as frustration, anger, sadness or anxiety will be instantly picked up by the person, and this may cause a negative reaction. You are instantly building a barrier between you and the person. So many husbands, wives, children get frustrated or maybe angry with dementia, the condition and not the person, but their loved ones will pick up on these negative emotions and then mirror this negativity back. This means that conversations are challenging and then relationships become strained.

We must always remember the following statement: The way that you approach a person with dementia will instantly determine how they react to you. If you cannot put a smile on your face when approaching people with dementia, then please do not approach them at all. But is this just a dementia issue? For everyone, a person with a bad attitude will have a negative effect. It has a massive impact on our decisions to even start a conversation with them. When caring for a person with dementia, sometimes it's just better to walk away, come back later if you cannot control your emotions. For the benefit of dementia care, this is very, very important.

Another statement that you can add to this is a person with dementia or even someone with short or long-term memory loss, never forgets. They may not know what you did, but they will always know that you did something. People with dementia start to associate actions and behaviours towards them by one person as something that multiple people will do. This then leads to lack of trust, paranoia and may make them withdrawn from you and everyone else. Care staff will hear some of the following pretty much every day of their career, "She stole from me, he's following me, they don't like me." We must realise that this is a behaviour caused by someone, and now the feelings are targeted at everyone.

Poor attitudes build barriers, a lack of understanding of dementia builds barriers, and the changes in the person's life will again, build a barrier. Once these barriers have been created, they are often impossible, or at least extremely difficult to break down. Therefore, we must be aware of how we approach, we must be relaxed, we have to stay calm, smile, and the person with dementia will stay calm and smile back at you. Think about your attitude constantly and always ensure it is as positive and friendly as you can make it.