If you were raised to respect your elders, regardless of mental status, common courtesy is…common. If that elder happens to have dementia, that doesn’t reduce the requirement to show respect and be courteous. Apparently that isn’t what everyone has been taught.
Our elder required some routine testing and I was the one who took her to get it done. She isn’t fond of the test and my focus was on her as she coped with it. The event I’m about to describe took longer for me to recognize, even though I knew something was bothering me about it.
Our elder made a statement that was true to a certain degree. In fact, while I seriously doubt it, it might even be totally true. The woman performing the test looked at me and rolled her eyes as if to say “she’s really nutso, isn’t she.”
That expression upset our elder. She’s not stupid and she’s not blind. As I mentioned, my focus was on her and the medical professional performing the test was only in my peripheral vision. After I got home from this experience I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad had happened and I had missed it. I replayed the event in my mind and finally saw that expression. Not very professional, was it?
Then I started thinking about it. If one dementia patient is being treated like this…by anyone, but especially a medical professional…it is probably somewhat commonplace. That’s just plain wrong.
What *should* have happened is that the person involved either accept the statement without comment verbal or physical or try redirecting her. The former is easiest to do, especially if you’re only going to be with the patient for ten or fifteen minutes. The latter I can do as needed.
In our elder’s case there is someone to look out for her and deal with those who would demean her because of her mental state. How many others do? How common is this? What should our reactions be when we see it?
Unfortunately, from previous experience, it is very common to think of someone with memory issues as less of a person than we are. I saw and heard it in the nursing home when I was a teenager. I see it now with our elder.
My first reaction, when it is done to our elder, is to take care of her. An experience like that could make her feel demeaned. In a dementia patient, that sort of feeling can be hard to counter. My second reaction, when it can be done, is to educate the person speaking. It didn’t work with this particular medical professional but a lot of people do see the point.
Our elder isn’t less of a person because she has dementia. She is our elder and she deserves our respect, love, help and guidance. It would be nice if everyone saw her and other patients like her that way.