People with dementia can still make decisions in their everyday lives and with support from partners can continue to do so as their condition advances. This is one of the preliminary findings of a two-year research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) into how married couples living with dementia make decisions on a daily basis.
The study is investigating how couples make decisions over issues such as what to eat or wear, as well as how they make more complex decisions on who manages the finances, and whether or not to attend a day centre. The aim of the study is to identify the practical support that can help couples make these decisions.
Dr Geraldine Boyle and Dr Katherine Ludwin from Bradford University along with Dr Lorna Warren from the University of Sheffield research relates to people with early stage dementia to those with more advanced dementia. They have been spending time at home with the couples, interviewing each partner and observing them as they go about their daily routines.
Dr Boyle comments: "It's important for people with dementia to be supported to allow them to make decisions where they're still able to. Having dementia doesn't mean you automatically lose your decision-making ability -- this needs to be considered on a decision-by-decision basis. Professionals need to facilitate the involvement of people with dementia in decision-making as much as possible."
Key preliminary findings include:
The study has also found that people with dementia may need encouragement to make decisions as well as the opportunity to make these decisions for themselves.
Dr Boyle concludes: "Because dementia is still quite a stigmatised illness, those living with the condition are sensitive to other people's reactions to them. Their confidence can be quite fragile. It is important that they feel good about themselves and know that their views still matter."
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