Challenging the Child-Myth of Dementia
There is a strong myth that people with dementia become childlike and that they don't know what is best for them. Not only is this a myth, it is also an unnecessary stigma.
Though the behaviour of a person with dementia may resemble that of a child, the two are worlds apart. The social inhibitions, which normally regulate our responses, lift in a person with dementia so that they may share the same spontaneous joy and appreciation of a child. However, it is crucial that you continue to see the person with dementia as a whole person, one who has lived a long life, contributed to society and who carries a backpack filled with life-history, experience and wisdom.
If you fall into the trap of thinking of them as a child, it will affect the way you treat them, which in turn will affect the responses you get back. Thinking of the person with dementia as a child will ‘program' your whole approach. It is likely you will talk to the person the same way as you would talk to a child and they are likely then to become defensive and respond with anger.I don't consciously believe the myth but you hear people who do all the time and it inevitably has some effect on you. This is why it's so important to try to see the whole person and to blame the condition rather than the person. I'm sure I do sometimes talk to S as I would to a child but her usual response - 'Yes dear, I'm a big girl now!' - quickly brings me to my senses. It's not a childish response at all, but an adult using a humorous if sarcastic remark to make her point.