Some readers of this feature may be familiar with the name of Wendy Mitchell, who, after being diagnosed with dementia a decade or so ago, became a campaigner and author, gaining the respect of large numbers of people. This month, Wendy chose to stop eating and drinking, so that her journey with dementia didn’t take her where she wasn’t prepared to go. Whatever your view, it was her decision and it’s not for this page to debate that.

Along her journey, there were times when some people even doubted Wendy’s dementia, because she was achieving so much. Behind her achievements, however, there’d been a lot of careful planning, adaptation and organisation, enabling her to live the best life she could. She talked about having pictures on the outside of wardrobe doors, so that she knew what was inside – and her daughters have described paring down her outfits so that she had multiples of the same things, making choosing and organising clothing so much easier.

She’d hung a scarf over her flat screen TV so that it didn’t look like a hole in the wall; her daughters had taped around switches so that she could locate them.  Simple, practical solutions to situations which would otherwise have made life far less manageable. When someone with dementia has to go into hospital, of course, all these habits and tools are removed, plus routines are changed and surroundings are unfamiliar. As Wendy said – her nightmare. 

If hospital teams have insight into the needs of people with dementia and can tweak their approach to help them, what a difference can be made – and if family carers can provide guidance about top tips to keep their loved one safe and relaxed, that’s invaluable. As the saying goes: when you’ve met a person with dementia, you’ve met ONE person with dementia. Let’s all bear in mind that our approach needn’t take that much tweaking in order to better support every individual with dementia during hospital stays, whether it’s someone as known for their achievement as Wendy was, or someone previously unknown to you. Whatever effort we make, it’ll be relatively straightforward for us to do, compared to the massive effort being made by the person with dementia as they try to cope.