Is It Dementia

Is It Dementia

A resource for recognising the signs of dementia.

Introduction - Transcript

Hi. I'm Doctor Andrew Rochford.

I want to ask you a question: have you ever met someone whose life has been affected by dementia?

The odds are, you have.

There are more than two hundred new cases of dementia diagnosed in Australia every single day.

Right now it's actually the largest cause of disability in people over the age of sixty-five.

These days we're all living longer - which is great news - but an ageing population means we're more and more likely to meet someone with dementia in our daily lives.

Just because the risk of dementia increases with age, it's not a normal part of ageing.

It's a disease.

In fact, younger onset dementia can affect people in their fifties, forties, or even in their thirties.

And this can make it hard to recognise.

When you or I meet someone with an illness or a disability that makes life a challenge for them, we tend to adapt the way we work to try and help them out.

But if it's not obvious that a person has dementia, how are you going to know?

When we talk about dementia we're actually talking about a range of diseases that can affect the brain in different ways.

Some can make it hard for a person to make new memories. Others can make it hard to communicate, and can make even simple situations become confusing and aggravating.

The information in this resource will help you to recognise the signs of dementia. It'll also help you think about how you can minimise the impact of dementia in your own day-to-day life.

Every customer is different. For most people, the retail environment is just a part of everyday life.

But for people with dementia, the retail experience can represent both a positive exercise in independence, and a challenge.

An ageing population means you are more and more likely to encounter a customer with dementia in your work. But the signs are not always obvious.

Dementia can make a customer appear agitated, confused or even forgetful. Noise and distraction can make it hard to concentrate, or understand complex information.

How you respond to a customer's behaviour can make the difference between a confusing situation getting worse, and a positive outcome: for you and the customer.

The Queue Jumper - Transcript

Listen to the audio version of the transcript (right click & save target as to download)

A young bearded man in a suit, tie and glasses, walks quickly through the aisles of a convenience store to the counter, a magazine under his arm. As he gets closer he sees a woman with a full trolley moving towards the only available checkout. He speeds up, but she gets there before him, and he rolls his eyes.

An older, well-dressed woman, walks straight to the checkout in front of the woman with the trolley. The man says, "Hey!"

The checkout operator, a young, bored-looking woman, says, "I'm sorry, I think this lady was first." The first customer waves, and says, "Oh, no, that's OK." The checkout operator asks, "Are you sure?" and she replies, "It's fine." The operator, nonplussed, says, "OK" and the young man says, sarcastically, "Fine."

The operator packs a shopping bag and taps on her console, saying, "That'll be seven ninety five, do you have any rewards cards today?" She looks up, and the customer looks confused, asking, "Sorry?" The operator repeats, "Do you have any rewards cards today?" The customer nods, confused, saying, "OK." The man sighs, impatiently, saying, "For goodness sake!"

The first customer turns to him, indignantly, and with a hand on her hip glances at his magazine, saying, "Men's Health. You in a hurry?"

The operator repeats, "Do you have any rewards cards?" and the older customer shakes her head, saying, "No." The operator taps on her console, asking, "Would you be interested in our two for one chocolate special today?" The customer nods, distractedly, saying, "OK. OK." But when the operator reaches for the chocolates she shakes her head, saying, "Oh, no, no."

The operator puts them back, and says, "That'll be seven ninety-five, were you paying EFTPOS or cash today?" The customer opens her purse and searches, slowly. The operator glances around, impatiently, and repeats, "How are you paying today?" The customer hands over a ten dollar note, and a credit card. The operator looks at them both, shakes her head, and hands back the credit card. The customer takes it, confused, then hands it back to the operator again.

The operator frowns, asking, "Were you paying cash today?"

There are now two more customers behind the young man, who says, "Could we hurry this up? I'm in a bit of a rush." The first customer turns to him again, indignantly, and glances at his magazine. He says, sheepishly, "It's for my wife."

The operator says, "Just one moment sir, I'm just serving this lady." The older customer turns to the young man and asks, "Do I have to give you something?" He replies, "No! You've got to give it to her! Can you be quick please?"

The operator looks the customer in the eye and asks, "Were you paying cash today?"

The customer nods, and replies, "Yes." The operator takes the change and hands it to the customer, who reaches for it, but drops it on the ground. The first customer steps over to help her pick it up, as the young man says, "For goodness sake!" While the first customer is helping the older woman, he takes the opportunity to slip forward in the queue. The operator leans over to the stressed older woman and says calmly, "Don't worry, it's fine!" The customer hands the change to her, but she shakes her head and hands it back, saying, "No, no, this is yours!"

The operator hands the shopping bag to the customer and says, "There you go." The customer says, "Thank you," as she walks away, to which the operator replies, "No problem!"

The young man steps forward, smiling. The operator glances at him, and says, "Sorry sir, I think this lady was next." She glances at the first customer, who smiles at the young man. He walks to the back of the line, annoyed, as the first customer steps forward and begins unpacking her trolley, asking, "Can I get some bags please?" The operator replies, "No problem."

The Confused Customer - Transcript

Listen to the audio version of the transcript (right click & save target as to download)

The home-ware section of a department store. A young employee in a white shirt, wearing headphones, pushes a shelving trolley around a corner without looking where he's going. His supervisor, a young woman in a black uniform, is talking to a customer when she spots the trolley. She pulls the customer out of the way as the young man swerves the trolley around them. She says, "I'm so sorry!"

The P.A. systems sounds, and a voice says, "Karen to the customer service desk please!" Karen excuses herself from the customer, and walks quickly towards the counter.

A young female cashier is serving a line of customers as Karen approaches. The cashier spots her, nodding over her shoulder. Karen glances in that direction, then nods to the cashier knowingly.

A young sales assistant is talking to an older male customer, who holds a clock. The assistant talks very quickly, saying, " won't stay on the screen, OK, the wall clocks are just clocks, no calendars, alright? I don't understand why you'd want..." He spots Karen, and rolls his eyes, saying, "Oh, Karen, this guy's looking for a clock but I've shown him all the wall clocks, but he wants one with a calendar on it as well, and I've shown him the desktop clocks, but you've got to push a button on those, they don't stay on the screen, and he wants one that stays on the screen."

Karen nods and turns to the confused customer, asking, "OK, so sir it was a clock you were after?" He nods saying, "I want one like this one..." when the assistant interrupts, saying, "But with a calendar on it as well." Karen nods, repeating, "With a calendar on it as well." The customer asks, "Does it come with a screen?" The assistant butts in again, saying quickly, "If you want one with a screen on it you've got to push the button, OK, none of them stay on the screen." The customer looks confused, saying, "What?"

Karen nods to the assistant, saying, "OK, thanks Joe, it's fine, I'll take it from here." Joe rolls his eyes and turns, walking away. The customer shakes his head at Karen, handing her the clock, saying, "I don't need it." Karen takes it, saying, "OK, sure. That's fine..." Suddenly Joe shouts from behind a shelf, "No, they don't go there any more, they're in with haberdashery!"

The customer is startled, and confused, and Karen puts a hand on his shoulder, ushering him away. He says, concerned, "I need to go." Karen replies, "OK, that's fine." He doesn't move, just wrings his hands and repeats, "I need to go." Karen looks around, confused, then asks, "Are you waiting for someone?" The customer nods, saying, uncertainly, "I'm waiting for my wife." Karen nods, saying, "OK, where is she?" The customer gestures, saying, "She's just gone out for a minute." He looks around, confused. Karen scans around, then asks him, "Do you want me to call her?" He shrugs, saying, "I don't know." She persists, calmly, asking, "Do you have a phone, or...?" He shakes his head, agitated, saying, "I don't know, I don't know."

She pats him gently on the shoulder and says, "Oh that's OK, that's OK, come, come and have a seat." She gestures and ushers him to a chair, asking him, "Do you have your wallet on you?" He pats his pockets, retrieving it, and handing it to her. Karen searches inside and finds a card, holding it up to him, asking, "Is this your wife's number?" He nods, and she asks, "Do you want us just to give her a call?" He nods, and smiles, and she smiles back, handing him back the wallet and saying, "Alright, yeah, I'll be right back."

She moves to the counter, glancing over her shoulder at the customer. She smiles at the cashier, asking, "Hey, could you just keep your eye on that gentleman over there? I'm just going to try and call his wife for him." The cashier replies "Sure," as Karen picks up the phone. Just then, the assistant approaches, grinning. He lifts a large clock in one hand and a calendar in the other. Karen shakes her head at him, and his smile fades. He nods, and moves away, awkwardly.

Conclusion - Transcript

Some customers are difficult, and there can be many different reasons why.

But the behaviour of a customer with dementia is not always intentional.

Confusion, repetitive questioning and irritability can all be signs of dementia, and to treat them as intentional may not help resolve the situation.

Speaking clearly, slowly, and with simple instructions can help. If possible, moving away from loud noises and distractions will reduce confusion.

Your patience and understanding can make all the difference for a customer with dementia.

By the time I finish this sentence, someone else in the world will have been diagnosed with dementia.

That's one every seven seconds.

This means within thirty years there will be more than one hundred million people living on the planet with dementia - more than four times the population of Australia.

So if you don't know someone with dementia yet, you will soon.

Remember: not all forms of dementia are the same.

Some might make it hard for a person to remember something that just happened, even though they can remember things that happened years ago.

But in other forms of dementia, memory loss might be less noticeable than sudden changes in mood, dizziness and unsteadiness, or even hallucinations.

Think about it this way: have you ever had one of those dreams where no one could understand what you were saying, no matter how hard you tried? You wake up, confused, and realise that none of it made any sense - but it felt real to you at the time.

Sometimes that's how a person with dementia feels. Remember, what they're feeling makes sense to them, even if it doesn't to you.

Sounds confusing, doesn't it?

Now consider this person surrounded by noise and distraction: in a shopping centre, for instance, or a busy workplace. That's what I'd call a challenge.

But it's the challenge that a person with dementia faces every day.

So what can you do to make life a little bit more fulfilling?

When you find yourself faced with unusual behaviour - it might be confusion at simple instructions, or repetitive questions - ask yourself the question: could this be dementia?

A person with dementia will find it much easier to understand you if you speak calmly and in short sentences. It helps to maintain a friendly attitude, in your body language and your eye contact.

If possible, you could even help by moving the conversation away from any distractions or loud noises. If a person with dementia is older, maybe you could take them somewhere they can sit down: it can all help to make communication easier - for both you and them.

The main thing is to be patient. We all lead busy lives, and it's not always easy to consider the reasons behind someone's behaviour.

For more about communication, you can go to the "Additional Information" section on this resource.

No matter how independent a person with dementia is, they rely on the care of their friends, families and their communities. Everyone deserves the chance to get the most out of their lives, and with a little effort you can be a big contribution to that.

As the population ages, you're more and more likely to come face to face with dementia. It could be in your work, but it might also be in your everyday life. It might even be a friend or a family member.

If you feel the impact of dementia, how do you want your community to respond?

Understanding dementia won't just help you deal with situations in the workplace - it helps reduce the impact for everyone.

So next time you find yourself faced with unusual behaviour, why not ask yourself: could this be dementia?

Well done. You've completed the industry stream.

Here are some options for what you can do next: