Being Higher than a Stick within the Eye


Al Energy, geriatrician and advocate for individuals residing with dementia, tells an amazing story that Richard Taylor as soon as informed him. Richard Taylor is an individual who lived with dementia and devoted his life after his prognosis to creating consciousness of the expertise of dementia.

Richard was visiting a nursing residence and watched a gaggle of women who lived within the “reminiscence care unit” folding laundry.  One of many girls motioned for Richard to come back over.

“You understand what they’re doing right here, proper?” she requested, as she motioned to the laundry. Richard shook his head.

“You see, they carry us these baskets of garments for us to fold. Once we are executed, they take them again over there, unfold them, and produce them again for us to fold once more.”

Richard requested, “Why do you retain doing it?”

The girl stated, “Effectively, it’s higher than a stick within the eye.”

Al closes the story by asking us, “Can we do higher than a stick within the eye for individuals residing with dementia?”branch-308013_1280.png

I imagine the issues we do to attempt to help individuals with dementia nearly all the time come from a superb place. We need to assist them. Many instances we have no idea how. So, we do our greatest at the moment.  One may argue that one thing is healthier than nothing.

However, is it? How can we do higher?

I used to be remembering Al’s story as I heard this quote from Kyrié Carpenter:

“When individuals are ravenous, they’ll settle for something.”

These easy and profound phrases had been stated in reference to a dialogue about “pretend” issues we give individuals with dementia (on this case, it was pretend pets, child dolls, and many others.).  It resonated with me deeply.  It saved nagging at my mind.

As I considered it, it occurred to me that this assertion held broader that means and deeper knowledge outdoors of its authentic context. It challenged me to contemplate how the reality of this – that individuals are ravenous and can settle for something – may maintain for a lot of elements of how we attempt to help individuals residing with dementia. It introduced up many questions for me.

Is part of our present paradigm of dementia the concept that “something we do for individuals with dementia is ‘good’”, as a result of dementia is so dangerous?

If individuals are ravenous, and they’ll settle for something, is what we’re doing for them actually serving to them? Is it what they actually need?

How are we taking note of whether or not this stuff are literally consistent with person-centered values that honor individuals with dementia as entire human beings, and as people with wants which are different and distinctive to every particular person?

Dementia is life-changing. I’ve had the consideration of collaborating with individuals residing with dementia and their care companions for a few years, and I can let you know with out reservation that they’re ravenous.

They’re ravenous for info and help. They’re additionally ravenous for relationship, connectedness, methods of discovering goal, being handled equally and with dignity, and lots of different issues. Individuals are out of the blue plopped into this world of dementia and not using a map, and it’s scary as hell.  The maps which are obtainable don’t current the entire image of dementia, however solely items of it, so that they solely know what they know, and don’t know what they don’t know. After they discover “instructions” they aren’t all the time sure whether or not they’re the fitting ones.


An individual with dementia goes to the physician to get her prognosis. The physician tells her she shouldn’t fear, she simply has a contact of dementia. She is ravenous for one thing, something, and he or she accepts this.

A member of the family is at wits finish along with his spouse, who resides with dementia, as a result of she will get indignant when he helps her dress. He tells his help group, they usually inform him that he must ask for medication for her to be extra cooperative. He’s ravenous and accepts this. His help group can be ravenous and has accepted this.

I’ve sat with relations who inform me the issues they’ve discovered on the web that promise a treatment. Individuals with dementia inform me how they’re informed by somebody or learn someplace that they only must do Sudoku, eat blueberries, train, and many others. and that can treatment their dementia. Individuals with dementia learn that they’ll develop into sundowners. They’re informed that every one individuals with dementia will develop into indignant and violent.

They settle for this stuff. They’re ravenous.


This is a crucial factor to acknowledge, as a result of once we know that individuals are ravenous, and that they’ll settle for something, we must be actually conscious of what we’re providing them.

I don’t imply to counsel that individuals with dementia and their care companions are, or ought to be, passive recipients of knowledge. Nevertheless, we maybe must acknowledge that that is additionally part of the present paradigm of dementia (and must be modified) – that “we”, the “skilled consultants”, maintain the knowledge, which by advantage of it being held by the consultants, makes it “true”. So, individuals settle for it.

The perils of being starved and accepting something are particularly regarding in schooling about dementia. Individuals are ravenous for information, so the hazard may be that any schooling is nice schooling. Individuals with dementia and their care companions settle for this data, and apply it.

Even whether it is schooling that refers to individuals residing with dementia as “demented”, or labels them as aggressive, non-compliant, sun-downing, wandering, and many others.


Even whether it is schooling that helps a paradigm of dementia that sees individuals with dementia as issues, bizarre, totally different, now not there. That labels their regular expressions and actions as medical issues, with out contemplating why they’re expressing themselves that approach, what their wants are, and the way they’ll proactively search well-being.

Even whether it is schooling that helps a paradigm of dementia that creates extra incapacity than the illness itself.

They settle for it, as a result of they’re ravenous.

Once we know this, that individuals are ravenous and can settle for something, perhaps it would encourage us to be actually conscious of what we’re giving individuals. Possibly it would remind us to pay attention extra, and communicate much less. Possibly it would contemplate broadly what we’re saying about dementia by means of our schooling, our providers, even our analysis.

Sure, even analysis. Right here is one small instance. We offer schooling about dementia to a gaggle of individuals, we check them to see whether or not they have discovered what we taught them, and we discover that they’ve. Nevertheless, maybe we have now taught them a paradigm of dementia that’s purely medical and never person-centered, one that doesn’t embrace the views of individuals with dementia. They’re ravenous and can settle for something.

Is it higher than a stick within the eye?

It’s not born of unwell intent. We have now tried to help individuals in the best way we thought was finest. And since they accepted it, we assumed it was okay. However it’s time to rethink this. Individuals with dementia and their care companions are nonetheless ravenous. However they need to not settle for simply something. Let’s give them one thing higher to just accept. Possibly much more than settle for, however allow and empower.

I want to see us come to a spot the place every little thing we do to help individuals with dementia, together with schooling, displays person-centered values. To me, person-centered values honor who an individual is and what’s vital to her or him, and are lived by means of interconnected relationships with others who know and honor what’s vital to an individual.


Listed here are some preliminary questions that we are able to ask ourselves, from my perspective and experiences of listening to the voices of individuals residing with dementia and their care companions, that assist us to contemplate whether or not person-centered values are current (or absent).

This isn’t an exhaustive listing, however these are a few of the issues that I take into consideration after I take a look at info, articles, books, academic applications, displays, motion pictures, podcasts, blogs, merchandise, helps, providers, and many others. associated to dementia.

  • Does it embrace the attitude of the particular person residing with dementia and people who help her or him? (Or, does it solely embrace the skilled perspective?)
  • Does it encourage us to ask for, and be inquisitive about, the attitude of dementia?
  • Is there an emphasis on what’s vital to the particular person with dementia? (Or, does it embrace paternalistic views that counsel “we” know higher than “them”?)
  • Is there an emphasis on who that particular person is, together with the multidimensional elements of who individuals are, not simply their cognition?
  • Does it honor every particular person with dementia as a person? (Or, does it categorize individuals by their weaknesses or disabilities? Does it generalize the expertise of dementia to teams of individuals?)
  • Does it account for the significance of relationship and partnership?
  • Does it embrace well-being and its varied domains?
  • Does it current a balanced view of dementia to incorporate the more-than-medical expertise of residing with dementia?
  • Is there a concentrate on LIVING as the first purpose? (Moderately than care and help being the purpose in itself?)
  • Is the language person-centered per guidelines developed by the Dementia Motion Alliance? (Or, does the language label individuals with dementia or their actions?)
  • When describing the actions and expressions of individuals with dementia, is there an try to attempt to perceive how individuals act and why they act that approach, honoring human expressions? (Or, does it medicalize what could possibly be regular for an individual, describe these actions and expressions as behavioral and psychological signs, or drawback behaviors?)
  • Does it embrace strengths of individuals with dementia? Does it focus not simply on what individuals can’t do, however what they’ll do?
  • Does it encourage autonomy of individuals with dementia?
  • Does it encourage us to see individuals with dementia as people who find themselves experiencing the world otherwise, and doing their finest? (Or, does it body individuals with dementia as issues to be managed?)
  • What else??

As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben stated, “With nice energy, comes nice accountability.”

The true superheroes are individuals residing with dementia and their care companions. And we have now each the ability and the accountability to do higher than a stick within the eye for them.

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