Retaining a sense of self
What is it?
Giving those living with dementia prompts and clues that help them to remember who they are, what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Why is it important?
People living with the later stages of dementia often begin to lose their sense of identity and prompts about name and context are useful reminders.
Making clear what is happening and why helps people to understand what is going on and reduces anxiety. It also provides a context that may help make an activity easier and more meaningful.
Remember also that people change – allow for this change, and for growth in the individual.
- Get to know as much as possible about the individual. In a formal care setting, make the effort to learn about their life history, their preferences, who their significant others are, whether they like to be called by their first name or by a title, such as Mrs or Mr, etc.
- Personalise the space around those living with dementia. In their own homes, leave things as they are, as far as possible. In care environments, allow for personal objects, ‘reminiscence’ items and other things associated with their past and present life to be around them – make things as ‘homely’ as possible.
- Try to strike a balance between ‘preservation’ and ‘new identity’. Some of the changes that may happen with dementia are not necessarily negative. For example, people might be less inhibited and want to have fun!
- All activities, even the most functional, can have a personalising and reinforcing quality – call people by their names, tell them what is happening, and why.