Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that familiarity dulls awareness. As we deal with things day after day everything becomes so routine we become less conscious of what we are doing and settle into a humdrum existence of habitual practice without actually reflecting on what we are doing.
As Dementia Awareness Week kicks off it is obviously a naturally perfect time to raise the awareness of those who work with people with dementia and to vigorously re-ignite understanding of dementia and the impact it has on the lives of those who need social care support.
The first question to ask yourselves or, naturally, put to those who you supervise, is why does this individual need the support we give? In many situations social care workers have little time to reflect on individual needs, especially where the notorious 15 minute visits occur, it is a case of get in do whatever the job requires and leave again. Yet an understanding of why those jobs are required gives purpose to the work and can re-invigorate the efforts to provide a better service for the individual.
Understanding why someone needs social care services must completely go beyond what the individual is unable to do, hence the need for the actual service, and focus on why they are unable to do those things. To say that an individual has dementia is not enough. What type of dementia do they have? How does that type of dementia affect an individual? How is this individual particularly affected?
Another aspect of familiarity that often totally impacts on the way we do things is not to notice those small incremental changes in people we see every day, or indeed in ourselves.
For example when people lose or gain weight, any serious dieter knows that those close to them are less likely to comment on their weight loss than a person they see less regularly and immediately. Or, similarly, we can look at an old photo of ourselves and realise that we have changed without ever really noticing those changes taking place.
Obviously in the same manner those who provide front line care can fail to notice small incremental changes and deterioration in those they provide care services for, those declines in mobility or mental functioning that are so gradual that they slip past conscious awareness but accumulatively mean the individual has deteriorated considerably over a period of time.
Re-igniting awareness must include assessing those changes in an individual, care workers should be encouraged to reflect on those changes and what they mean to the individual and the care services they receive. This is an essentially important aspect of care as while an individual may receive regular care reviews, care workers may not report those small changes as they have gone unnoticed and yet spotting these can prevent a crisis later on and ensure better care provision in the long run.
Those who own and run services providing social care services for people with dementia should use the opportunity of dementia awareness week to include re-igniting awareness through their staff development activities.
It is absolutely completely essential to raise awareness about dementia nationally yet we should quickly and rapidly recognise the importance of re-igniting awareness amongst those who provide care services to really boost the quality of dementia care.