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Respecting people's preferences

We're all creatures of habit with our own likes and dislikes, routines and ways of doing things. It’s important to recognise and respect people’s preferences and not make assumptions.

One size doesn't fit all

Think about yourself:

  • what time do you normally wake?
  • what is the first thing you do in the morning?
  • are you washed and dressed before going downstairs or do you need a cup of tea before you even think about getting washed?
  • when do you brush your teeth?
  • do you prefer a bath or shower?
  • which order do you do things in the shower? Hair first or body first?
  • do you use particular products or are happy to use anything?
  • do you use a sponge, scrunchy or flannel?
  • do you get your clothes ready the night before or grab anything in the morning?
  • when do you have breakfast?
  • what do you usually have? Or do you skip breakfast?

How do you feel if you cannot follow your normal routine?

We need to know as much detail as possible about a person with dementia’s routine, so that we can follow their way of doing things, not doing it the way we do it for ourselves.

Non-verbal communication in dementia care

Many of the things we do each day, we do on automatic pilot. We don’t think about it, we just do it.

We do this using our procedural memory: our memory of how to do things.

People with dementia can use their procedural memory to do everyday things, maybe with a little help to start.

We are often told to explain everything we are doing to people. For some, this will make it more difficult as they are having to use different parts of their brain to understand the spoken word and translate that into an action.

Nonverbal communication is often more effective and enables people to be more independent for longer.

Find out what people prefer

Everyone will have their food and drink preferences too. Foods they love, foods they hate.

They may like to eat little and often or enjoy a main meal at lunch time. Some will want to sit up at a table, others prefer a tray on their lap.

Some people like to be up and about and busy, others prefer quiet times. Some are up early and early to bed, others are night owls.

Personal preferences influence all of us, with or without a dementia, and the more we know about a person’s preferences, the closer we can match our support to their wants and needs.

One size does not fit all.

A case study about respecting people's preferences to help you improve your practice.

Useful resources

We want your feedback

Help us to improve the Dementia resource for care professionals by telling us what you think about it in our short four question survey.

First published: 9 October 2018
Last updated: 25 September 2022
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