Even identical twins act differently.
This is because they are shaped by the environment in unique ways, even if they have exactly genetic sequence as the blueprint which designed them.
It therefore cannot be any surprise that no two individuals in society are in the same, as you can easily witness with the range of opinions on your timeline on Twitter.
A person with a dementia might be very different to another person with a dementia.
There are a hundred different causes of dementia, tending to affect people in different age groups in distinct ways at different rates? Let’s pick one type of dementia, the most common cause, Alzheimer’s disease.
A 83 year-old with Alzheimer’s disease might have a number of different problems, for example memory – or even with problems in planning, aspects of language, or behaviour.
And of course it’s pretty likely that 83 year-old might be living with another different condition too, such as heart disease.
Your perception of that 83 year-old might vary from your next-door neighbour, according to, perhaps, your own personal experiences of dementia, good, bad or neither.
So, in raising awareness over the uniqueness of individuals through “Dementia Friends” or “Dementia Champions”, there’s an inherent contradiction.
How do we build ‘dementia friendly communities’, given one’s desire to embrace diversity?
I have for some time explained elsewhere why I think the term is a misnomer. I don’t see the point of “asthma friendly communities” or “chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy communities”, worthy though they are.
I think when you pick off any of the ‘protected characteristics’ in the Equality Act, such as ‘disability’, ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘age’, you have to be careful about not inadvertently homogenising groups of people, worthy though the cause of ensuring that they do not suffer any unfair detriment is.
It could be that people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, due to how the condition tends to affect the brain, could have particularly problems with spatial memory or navigation. Therefore, it would be desirable perhaps to have places with clear landmarks such that such individuals can navigate themselves around.
But take this situation to an extreme. Would society feel comfortable with people with dementia having their own cafés?
The story of Rosa Parks is well known.
After working all day, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the “coloured” section.
The bus driver moved the “coloured” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit.
Rosa did not move.
A legitimate learning objective of ‘dementia awareness’ sessions is to think about what a person with dementia might or might not be able to do.
But if we then meet this learning objective, that people with dementia are all unique, we should steer away from stereotypes that people with dementia act ‘a certain way’.
This, I personally believe, is a big failing of this ‘dementia friendly communities awareness video’.