Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Just finished reading: Contented Dementia

As I've mentioned before I felt duty bound to read Contented Dementia by Oliver James as it's been mentioned so often by people that I come across in my work in a mental health team for Older People. Given my last experience of reading a book by this author, Affluenza,  I wasn't completely over enamoured by the prospect.

It's easy to pooh pooh a book that the Alzheimer's Society have grave reservations about, including the blanket approach to denying choice to people with dementia.  But on the plus side the book illustrates a few interesting techniques for example, a way of dealing with repetitive speech, that could be helpful within an arsenal of things to try.  I also felt that one of the analogies used for dementia which compared it to a set of boxes that could/could not be opened and closed had potential for illustrating some of the things that happen to people suffering from this illness. And it is also very unfair to completely deride an approach, that anecdotally, has been extremely helpful in some instances.

But  again this Oliver James' black and white assertion that this is THE method for dealing with people with dementia is disturbing.   For example, the idea of never asking a person with dementia a question seems especially  preposterous and patronising, yet is being seen by people that have little experience of this disease as authoritative and sound advice.   The view that carers should choose a 'nursing home' (whatever that means) well ahead of time is impractical as personnel changes that happen frequently in the care sector may mean that the chosen home becomes a very different beastie with time. And then there's the nepotism issue (the technique was developed by his mother in law)....

Because of the influence that this book is having on general perceptions of dementia care I feel that it is important reading for everyone involved in this field, so they can inform themselves and become in debate about this approach and the techniques it uses.  And its given me a jog to read again what many regard as the definitive text on dementia care Dementia Reconsidered: The Person Comes First by Tom Kitwood so that its ideas may be debated widely again too.

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