Dementia is only part of my life

My past and my present

When getting to know someone with dementia, the person’s past is really important.

The person with dementia needs to be able to describe themselves. You live your life according to what you’ve done in the past – memories are incredible important.

(Peter H)

It’s the same for all of us.

However, sometimes it feels like there is TOO MUCH focus on the past – and this can make people with dementia feel like their life is all about looking back, not forwards.

It makes me feel like my life is over – which it isn’t.

(Brian)

Focusing only on the past can make people feel that their present life is somehow less valid – and it can blind us to the person they are now.

You know, I always loved cricket – I always was a Gloucester boy – it was a real obsession. But you know, something has happened, and I just couldn’t be less interested. I can tell you that now of course – but if in the future you were relying on my ‘life history’ to tell you what I like then I’d end up getting dragged along to cricket all the time – I’d hate it. So talk to me, my life isn’t over yet.

(Brian)

My taste has changed, now I like curry and rock music!

(Ken)

Obstacles to living well

There are some things which can make dementia much harder to cope with. These include:

People with dementia can feel inadequate when talking to others – people need to know there are lots of people with dementia out there.

(Peter H)

I dread tripping over – I don’t walk as well as I used to – but that’s nothing to do with my dementia.

(Sandy)

You know, one thing that affects me really badly is background noise – I really find it hard to concentrate – I guess the dementia doesn’t help but it’s the noise mainly.

(unattributed)

I used to get lost – I still do – but I don’t care now.

(Sandy)

The feature on Having a good conversation in the section on Communicating well looks at similar ideas. You may also want to go through the e-learning module 5, Common difficulties and how to help, part of the SCIE Open Dementia Programme.

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