Sunday, 7 April 2013

Generalisations about people with dementia

You find them all over the internet.  Even when people pay lip service to the idea that 'everyone is different', they frequently state, suggest or imply that 'they' do this, can't do that, feel this, must be treated like this, cannot understand that....

The absurd thing is that those who make these statements will themselves often only have experience of two or three people with dementia.  Either they are thoughtlessly extrapolating from this miniscule sample or, more likely, they're just repeating what they have read or been told by other equally misguided people.

I've mentioned before a couple of totally false assertions:

Statements like this also ignore that the fact that people are often diagnosed at very different stages of whatever type of dementia they have (and some people claim that there are over 200).  Many people in the early stages of the diseases will be able to do nearly all the things that people without dementia can do.  Indeed, they may be able to do some of them better than most people without dementia.  The writer Terry Pratchett is a well-known example.  Several years after diagnosis, he is still writing books.  Likewise, the singer Glen Campbell was able to produce a very polished album post-diagnosis.

For every celebrity, there will be thousands of other people who are still functioning 'normally' in some or many respects.  People are still working, driving, and living independently.

I would advise people who want to try to understand the world of dementia to ignore any statement that lumps people together in the way that I've illustrated.

I'm not of course, denying that many people with dementia can have some things in common, just like people without dementia can.  It's the absence of qualifiers  -  some, many, most  -  that gives the game away.

It's just sloppy thinking  -  on a par with talk of 'the poor' or 'the unemployed'  -  and often from people who should know better.

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