Danuta Lipinska has worked with people with dementia in the community for many years. She has a BA in Psychology and MA in Counselling, both from the University of New Hampshire, USA, and is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the UKRC Association of Independent Practitioners. Danuta is the author of Person-Centred Counselling for People with Dementia: Making Sense of Self, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, which covers the fundamentals of the counselling process as well as some theories, such as the role of the ‘spiritual’ in the counselling relationship. Here, she discusses person-centred counselling for people with dementia.
By now, most readers will have seen or heard the television or radio slot featuring a person with dementia reminding us that not only do they have dementia, but they also ‘have a life’.
International dementia conferences and local services are being hosted by men and women with dementia; they have returned to centre stage at last and are back at the centre of their own lives.
For many years and on two continents I have had the privilege of working as a person-centred counsellor with men and women with various forms of dementia and in different environments. The clients and their relatives had asked me to write about their experiences and to make it known that for those who wished it, counselling was indeed helpful and needed to be more widely available.
They considered it helpful in their quest to ‘make sense of Self’ within the context of their lives as affected by living with dementia. Making sense of Self and the world around us is an endeavour we all undertake in our own unique ways, Sometimes people will seek out the impartial, empathic listening of a professional counsellor to support them in this quest.
Unfortunately, counselling is less available to men and women over a certain age and especially with a diagnosis of dementia, irrespective of age.
I have been extremely fortunate to work with individuals and organisations, both in the USA and the UK, who have encouraged me to develop the skills and the determination to offer counselling to people with dementia and encourage others of like mind to do the same. One client said, ‘I can’t tell my wife how I feel, she has enough to deal with just looking out for me’. Counselling can offer an opportunity for the client within a safe and confidential relationship to explore what living with dementia means to them without creating difficulties at home or with loved ones.
I am grateful to many social workers with tenacious beliefs and timely assessments who have referred people to me for counselling over the years. There exists a real opportunity for social workers in supporting people with dementia; they are uniquely trained and placed to recognise, assess and respond to the varied psycho-social needs of persons with dementia and to facilitate multidisciplinary approaches to care. The recent National Dementia Strategy may provide more opportunities for collaborative practice, bringing a more person-centred focus to the local community.
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.