In December, I wrote about appropriate use of symbols in the community, but I’m revisiting that now from the perspective of people’s own homes. That’s because this month a gentleman’s daughter contacted me to ask about purchasing a Butterfly to place on Dad’s door “so that doctors, carers and neighbours would know about his dementia”.

My response was that I’d strongly advise against using any symbol for the purpose she’d described. I went on to explain that family or friendship carers learn a huge amount along the way and in many cases it soon becomes obvious to them how best to support a person with dementia. However, for the general public – and therefore any professional teams who haven’t been trained – it’s usually nothing like as obvious what they need to do; knowing that a person’s living with dementia doesn’t automatically enable others to respond appropriately, nor does it help them know how best to support that specific individual.

As many of you will know, the Butterfly Scheme’s symbol may only be used where teams have been specifically trained, where their ongoing ability to apply that training is being led and where the symbol sits within the scheme’s whole care approach. On its own, the symbol wouldn’t improve care at all – and if people feel negatively about dementia, seeing a symbol may even create a negative approach.

For years, people have approached me to ask about using the symbol in all sorts of situations where any symbol could actually put the person with dementia at risk, but because the person asking has a positive and insightful approach to dementia care, they don’t realise that others may not. Often, displaying a symbol could make someone very vulnerable to those who are less honest or well-intentioned.

Having explained all this, I suggested that the lady should approach all the people she’d listed – the medical practice, the care provider and the neighbours – and simply talk to them about her concerns and how best they could help. In the end, it’s all about person-centred care, isn’t it?