In a blog published on 19 October 2018 on the site, strategy+business, There’s No Such Thing as Difficult People, written by Adam Kahane, there is a strong suggestion this is true. I took a screen shot from the site of Adam to use here, which has some information about who he is, and refers to a book that sounds very interesting! Adams article has aroused my interest in any areas, but for today, I will focus on whether people with dementia are difficult, or if it is in fact, others who simply find it too difficult to adjust their own beliefs, behaviours or judgements.
I’m almost sure people with dementia have been put into the box of what Adam refered to as “irremediably difficult”, and because of this, many staff also don’t want to work with ‘us’. It definitely ensures the ‘we are a burden’ narrative so often on social media platforms written by care partners. Yes, I know their job is really really tough, but so is having dementia. There was even some research earlier this year (sorry I can’t find it), showing evidence that nurses walked past those areas or rooms in residential care where there were people with dementia as they found them too difficult. It is a sad state of affairs, when a disease makes us unwanted, and nurses and paid carers choose to walk past us rather than to support us to live more positively.
Further on, Adam says:
“For years I’ve thought, “How fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with such exceptionally good people!” But then my longtime collaborator Betty Sue Flowers suggested an alternative way of understanding these experiences. “These are not extraordinarily good people,” she said. “They are ordinary people whom you are enabling to be good through the way you are working with them.” So perhaps there are no difficult people — only situations in which people seem to us to be difficult. Flipping my perspective in this way has helped me to draw lessons from my professional life that can help us all deal with the so-called difficult others we know.”
Taking this idea in particular (and in fact, his whole blog), made me believe even more that people with dementia are not “irremediably difficult”, that ‘we’ definitely do not have challenging behaviours or BPSD, and in if those supporting us, at home, or the community, or in an assisted living setting worked collaboratively with each other, and with us, their would be no difficult staff or clients. Sometimes the pathology of dementia may induce things such as hallucinations, paranoia and other real psychiatric symptoms, but most of the time, our responses are completely normal to the situation we find ourselves in, or the way people speak to us, treat us, or indeed, ignore us.
In his blog, Adam also says: “We may notice recurring patterns in the situations we find annoying, frustrating, or upsetting, and it might turn out that these triggers have more to do with us than they do with the other person.
When we say that another person is difficult, we are focusing on our take on what they are doing.
However, if we can suspend our judgments, we may notice recurring patterns in the situations we find annoying, frustrating, or upsetting, and it might turn out that these triggers have more to do with us than they do with the other person.”
Oh my, how this rings true… and health care professionals and anyone supporting a person with dementia need to look in the mirror first, to see what it is that they are doing (or not doing) that may cause someone to be appearing irremediably difficult, or angry or distressed. It also reminded me of one of my own blogs, Would you like you, if you met you?