I don’t know very much about interacting with people with dementia, and I’m hoping that some of y'all do.
Here are things I know:
- Folks with dementia are still people
- They are also still adults; dementia doesn’t make someone into a little child
- Their preferences matter
- Their consent matters
The problem is that standard verbal methods of assessing consent are often not effective with people with dementia:
- Some people can’t answer open-ended questions
- Some people can’t answer yes-or-no questions, or can only do so some of the time
- Some people vocalize in ways that may or may not be intended as words
- Some people repeat words over and over in ways that may or may not be intended as communication
- Some people have very limited voluntary movement and expressive body language
Also, communicating with people with dementia can be harder than communicating with people with developmental disabilities that affect communication. This is because people with dementia don’t usually have a lifetime of experience being disabled and compensating for disability.
I’m not sure how to assess consent in people with dementia when my usual strategies for getting an unambiguous yes or no don’t work. I’m also not sure what my defaults should be, or what guesses I should be making about what people might want.
Do any of y'all know things about treating people with dementia right?