Nurses' vital role in changing attitudes towards people with dementia

Greater acceptance of older people with dementia is helping families to cope, says Jane Bates. 

My father and I had a pact – we would never repeat the daft things my grandmother said. We just couldn’t bear people laughing at her

My granny had always been warm, witty and wise. Now in her eighties, she was in good form physically but her memory had left the building. 

She had dementia but was still her sunny self, welcoming us every visit despite not knowing who we were. It was heart breaking.  

To make things worse, others found it amusing. Called her batty, which hurt. That’s how it was then, but thankfully people rarely speak like that now. 

Today there is greater respect for older people and more understanding of the ageing process. Maybe it is because we are living longer and people are more used to those with age-related mental health problems, or perhaps it’s because celebrities have spoken out about their own dementia. The wealth of research into the condition has shown it is a disease, rather than something contemptible that happens to your granny. 

Along with charities like The Alzheimer’s Society, the nursing profession has been at the forefront of this change in attitude. Nurses have played a vital role in encouraging a fresh approach to dementia, and have helped foster hope that such a diagnosis is no longer a one-way street but one with possibilities of a better quality of life. 

My grandmother was in a home where she was treated kindly, it was her family who were more traumatised by the loss of that loving relationship. 

Had she lived now, the greater acceptance of her condition would certainly have lessened our grief, compounded by the thoughtless barbs of others.   

About the author

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

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