How to Help Those with Alzheimer's Retain their Dignity
When someone has Alzheimer’s, or a dementia related (ADRD) disease, their dignity is often stripped from them by the attitudes of caregivers. They think they are not worthy of respect and assumed to be throwaway people who have no contribution to society.
People with ADRD only know that communication with care providers includes language this is void of love, care, and understanding. Losing one’s sense of dignity leave people vulnerable to being ignored, forgotten, treated like an inmate locked inside a care facility, and ultimately left to die alone and afraid.
A person with Alzheimer’s is dependent on their caregiver(s) for social interaction and a sense of purpose and value. The communication between caregivers and the person with ADRD often has little or no emotional satisfaction. As ADRD advances, personal identity or a sense of self, causes those with ARD to become more dependent on others to let them know they are worthy. We each have a sense of self, and when the roles and behaviors we consider to be vital about us are gone, dignity disappears, and all that is left is an empty shell.
When self-identity is stripped away from the person with Alzheimer’s, their only self-satisfaction is the social communication of the moment. If that communication is negative, the moment is distressing. For example, if a caregiver gives their patient a scolding, you can almost see the person with Alzheimer’s scrunching down within themselves, and whatever spark was in their eyes vanishes. They are no longer feeling a sense of self-worth.
What can a sense of self do for someone with ADRD?
Maintaining a sense of self can protect a person with Alzheimer’s against adverse outcomes:
- A sense of self helps a person feel worthy of respect. They feel within themselves that they are valuable.
- A sense of self gives the patient the knowledge that they are lovable even when being ignored.
- A sense of self, allows the person with Alzheimer's to know they are a valued contributor, have many talents, and are not someone who just can’t do anything anymore.
Maintaining a sense of self and preserving dignity
The best treatments a person with Alzheimer’s can be given is simple dignity and gentle care.
Focus on fostering the soul and forming tender, loving associations with those in the community. Included should be family relationships, associations with friends and other residents as well as friends and family members. Adapt the medical model that prioritizes emotional well-being and focus on the “self.”
Many care homes have social programs that include music, games, discussions, and outside programs. These are important to keep the person with Alzheimer’s connected to the world. Look in the entertainment room, and you will see it filled with residents who are listening, clapping, smiling to themselves, and enjoying what is going on around them.
Read on to learn more ways to help patients maintain their dignity with Alzheimer's disease.