Final year nursing student Stephanie Craig writes about her passion for supporting people living with dementia and her involvement in a project to help improve public perception of the disease
People living with dementia face many challenges throughout their illness. One of the biggest challenges relates to public misconceptions about dementia and this can be disempowering.
Just because someone lives with the disease, it doesn’t mean they can’t do things like drive, manage money, or have romantic relationships. As dementia progresses, each person will encounter unique challenges and these can affect people emotionally, physically and practically
Caring for people with dementia is about seeing the person behind the illness
Caring for people with dementia is about seeing the person behind the illness and helping the person to actively live their life in the here and now. It’s also about empowering and facilitating people to take control of what they can still do and provide support for things that are more difficult.
As nursing students, we have first-hand experience of some of the best ways to do this – but not all people living with dementia regularly see nurses or health care professionals. It is therefore very important that family members, carers and the general public have good knowledge about how best to support them.
I am proud to have been involved in a project which seeks to improve public perception of dementia. A key part of the project was developing a free digital game. It aims to help improve society’s awareness so that people with dementia feel empowered, supported and included in their local communities.
I invite you to take a couple of minutes to play our free game
Along with a research team, a gaming company, five other nursing students and my lecturer, we worked alongside seven people living with dementia to co-design the game. My role was to work with all these individuals to help actively decide how the game would look, how it would play and what questions needed to be asked within the game.
To our knowledge this is the first game of its type. It works on any device through a web browser and only takes a few minutes to play. Players answer random questions, from an existing question bank about dementia. The idea is that the more times you play, the more you’ll learn about dementia.
At my university, Queen’s University Belfast, all nursing students are encouraged to play the game in their first year of study. The game has now been played over 3,000 times and research conducted by the university on its impact shows that after playing the game, a person's attitudes to people living with dementia improve.
Whether you are a nursing student, a registered nurse, a health care professional, or a person who looks after someone with dementia, I invite you to take a couple of minutes to play our free game. It might just change how you think about people living with dementia.
Did you know?
Dementia is a term that is used to describe a collection of symptoms including memory loss and problems with reasoning, perception and communication skills. It also leads to a reduction in a person's abilities and skills in carrying out routine activities such as washing, dressing and cooking.
By 2025 it is expected that more than one million people will be living with dementia in the UK.
Dawne Garrett, RCN Professional Lead for Older People and Dementia Care, says: “What a great idea the dementia game is and a clever use of digital education. It’s brilliant to see students so engaged and involved in developing something like this which is easily accessible to benefit all.”
Discover a range of RCN resources on dementia.