Caring For Dementia Potting Shed
Our discussion and ideation evening, titled “Caring for Dementia”, held with Irish carers and designers, was both enlightening and fruitful for all involved. By simply giving the carers space to talk, and an inquisitive group to probe and question, our teams uncovered a range of aspects of carer’s everyday lived experiences that are ripe for innovation and new thinking.
The areas in question ranged from how to increase awareness and empathy in the general public around dementia, how to give carers reassurance that their loved one is safe at all time, how to give carers some respite from their grinding schedule to breathe, and how to encourage the local community to do its bit to share the load placed on carers through simple and affordable changes.
Some high level insights have been highlighted below, all of which have a potential question/problem to solve noted at the end of them. These questions are asked with a combination of technology and local support in mind for the solution, as was requested by DCC for this session. A key element of the workshop was to consider how local businesses can be actively involved in delivering initiatives which help carers and those living with dementia through community and technology based soloutions.
A summary of the results from each group are contained in the link that follow the initial insights.
Insights and feedback
“Take a moment to breathe”
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a full time job with little support from the outside world. It can be a lonely, frustrating, infuriating, depressing, repetitive, and relentless task, a world that few of us can fathom unless we experience it. Everyday activities like shopping, dressing, and eating can take far longer when doing them for two. Carers need moments of relief and respite to be able to keep doing what they do without burning out. How might we use technology, along with local towns/businesses to provide carers with moments of peace, room to breathe, and time to look after their own wellbeing during their daily routine, while certain their loved one is safe and sound?
Fear of falls, malnutrition, wandering away, confusion, moments of panic, and many more risks to the wellbeing of those with dementia, are a constant weight on the shoulders of carers. Reassurance that their loved one is safe at all times is vital, it relieves anxiety but requires a huge amount of trust in the person or object they are relying on to monitor their loved one. “Our hairdresser is great, she knows mam and her condition and can ring or text if anything ever goes wrong”. This mixture of understanding and compassion from a business makes one of many monthly activities all the easier. How might we use technology and/or local businesses/networks/communities to provide carers with the reassurance that their loved one is safe when at home, or out and about, affording each of them increased freedom and quality of life?
“A problem shared”
Awareness around Dementia is a huge tool in improving the lives of carers and their loved one. The more people know the more they can empathise, help, warn, guide, and support. Awareness is knowing that a dishevelled looking man or woman at the till who is taking a long time and seems confused, could be suffering from Dementia and need additional assistance, rather than they are “strange” “mad” “trouble”. Knowing more about Dementia helps to remove stigma and get the public thinking about a subject that will be very much to the fore in the next 20 years. How might we use technology, communities, local towns, and businesses to increase the public’s awareness and empathy towards dementia?
“It takes a village”
A town, village, or community can do a huge amount to help or hinder the quality of life for those with Dementia, and their carers. Everything from signage, lighting, acoustics, staff attitude, training and awareness, colours, user interfaces, font size, and hundreds of other tiny factors can make life very easy or difficult for them. How might we encourage towns and businesses to become agents of positive change, with regards to dementia, through technological or community based action?
This was an incredibly rewarding, and eye opening, event, showing us just how much good can come from the most basic level of improving one’s own awareness of Dementia. Ideation was put to one side for the evening as the conversations around the lived experience of carers was so compelling and important that we wanted to keep it going.
We tend to refer to carers as “Superheroes” for the work they do, but this does them a disservice in my mind. It conveys the sense that they have some form of immunity, expert training, or super skills to deal with the punishing situations they find themselves in. It allows us to set them apart, to think they can handle it because they’re “Superheroes”, rather than regualr people, plunged into the caring role, undervalued, under resourced, frustrated, ignored exhausted, experiencing the devastating loss of a loved one. Having spent decades proclaiming carers Superheroes, while simultaneously ignoring them, the very least we can do as a community is improve our awareness around Dementia so as to offer some relief, understanding, and empathy wherever we can.
Highlights of the pain points and insights gathered from each group can be found HERE, we would encourage everyone to take a look at it to better their own understanding of the lived experience of carers.