During my years of working with people who have dementia, I’ve had moments where I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, especially when I’ve had a hand in making someone’s life better. Unfortunately, I’ve also had moments of terrible frustration when I felt that the rights of my residents weren’t being respected. I’ve often posed the following questions to colleagues, clients and family members:
“Do you think people with dementia have a right to quality of life?”
“So how would you measure if they have quality of life?”
And the silence that follows is usually deafening.
When the silence is broken, it’s been broken by some really ‘interesting’ contributions. The right to “a cup of tea” and a “clean bottom” are two notable examples.
Although resident’s rights fit into every aspect of living with dementia, I think presenting them in the context of ‘living well’ sends an important message that “living well” is VITAL to the person’s quality of life.
Historically, the most common barrier to the application of a resident’s rights has been the assumption that all people with dementia are incapable of self-determination (autonomy) simply because they have dementia. I can’t even begin to tell you how incorrect that statement is!
The very best example of living well for me is “Empowerment”. At One Kenton Place we empower our residents to live well every day. They’re given autonomy to make everyday decisions in a safe environment, and they’re encouraged to remain independent for as long as possible. As we know, it is extremely dis-empowering for someone when they lose their ability to be independent.
Many people incorrectly believe that once someone enters a retirement residence, their freedom is over – that should never be the case. One Kenton Place is a home where “life comes to people, and people come to life”. The people living here have remarkable histories and life experiences to share. Although impacted by the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and/ or dementia, we continue to see their potentials maximized.
Advocating on behalf of our residents is a daily exercise. We have one goal, which is to help people live with dignity and respect in the face of Alzheimer’s and dementia.