Independent advocacy for people with dementia relies upon the following to be effective:
This legislation is a benchmark for all advocates when working with people who have difficulty or are unable to make decisions for themselves. It provides a legal authority for some advocates (IMCAs and IMHAs) and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding Representatives. It also provides good practice for others to follow regarding assessing mental capacity, acting in best interests.
These ensure that advocacy is free, confidential and independent to those who require its services. They also give guidelines on providing clear aims and objectives, supporting advocates through training and supervision and clear boundaries to their role. Advocacy standards also ensure that the wishes and views of the person being advocated for direct the advocate's work and wherever possible they are involved. Many schemes follow the standards set in the Advocacy Charter & Code of Practice developed by Action4Advocacy or similar guidelines.
Advocacy is person centred by definition. This is particularly relevant to dementia advocacy and dementia care which puts the individual and their needs foremost, recognising and supporting their unique personal history and personality. Their dementia is secondary.
There are two sides to advocacy which are particularly relevant to those with dementia. First is to provide the individual with a voice, including them in all decisions that affect their lives, enabling them to make decisions, express their views, wishes and choices. Second, in particular when the individual may no longer be able to express themselves and make choices, the advocate takes on a safeguarding role, protecting them from abuse, discrimination and neglect, ensuring that their rights are respected and upheld, and determining that all decisions are made taking into account any expressed wishes and known aspects of their life that may enhance their quality of life.
To be an effective advocate for someone with dementia DAN believes that the advocate needs to have an understanding of dementia and its impact on each individual, adapting their approach to the needs of that individual.
The advocate will have developed communication skills that are flexible and innovative, responding to the assessed communication skills of the person with dementia and enabling engagement and meaningful interaction.