I thought about the meeting with the pilot group for Early Onset Dementia and Alzheimer’s on Saturday and how it made me feel and now I have had time to mull it over, I can think about it a bit more dispassionately which is what I need to do. (Please see the last post for details).
Firstly, am I over reacting? Yes I am, but it is true that many people working with professional bodies; statutory and non statutory, such as the Alzheimer’s Society need some education for their workers. I understand how easy it is to fall into a role of; support worker, organiser, being a person who is outside of the disability or target group, and focus group of the particular organisation, but that does not excuse the organisation from being educated to understand how to ‘walk in the shoes’ of those they wish to support by listening more and organising less.
What were my expectations? Sadly I think my expectations were a little too high for my own good! I should have expected less and maybe would have been content with how the meeting panned out. After all it was a pilot to find out what people wanted.
I have always been adamant that my hubby is NOT my carer he is my husband. I cannot think of a time when someone will need to care for me, and right now my present is important for me to wring every last drop of control and living well out of life. I cannot imagine him deciding what I would like to be doing right now, I have my own ideas and they are definitely not the same as his.
I know my last post focussed on individual conversations and did not elaborate on the bigger issue for me, so I thought I should balance that up so that you can understand exactly where I am coming from.
My issue is with the lack of education about Younger Early Onset Dementia/Alzheimer’s. (I think my next blog will be about the difference between the two so don’t go too far away).
Because Alzheimer’s and Dementia is being diagnosed much earlier than it used to be the Support world needs to catch up. Before, people were diagnosed with dementia only when their symptoms were blindingly obvious and by which time they were not able to understand that they themselves had a problem. This is about what is normal for each individual person, what is normal for one person is not for another, so someones difficulties must be outside their own normality. At this stage the family will be heavily involved (hopefully) in getting a diagnosis for their sibling, parent, spouse, child and also they may well be signposted to the world of Support organisations be it in the medical or voluntary sectors. That is when the services of Alzheimer’s Society has been a wonderful support for those families as a whole.
Today, diagnosis can be much earlier, right at the beginning of Alzheimer’s Disease, sometimes with only mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and as such may not be classed as dementia. The labels do not really matter because basically they are all under the same umbrella of dis-eases in the brain.
You walk out of your consultants room with this devastating diagnosis feeling absolutely shell shocked. You have no questions to ask yet, so are given a leaflet if you are lucky about alzheimer’s disease and dementia. You go home to start the first day of your life as a different person with a terminal disease. You may only be in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s when you should be looking forward to the rest of your life planning what to do with family, work, or retirement.
This is where the services for people with Early Onset Alzheimer’s/Dementia (EOAD) fail because there is practically no provision. The only groups organised by many organisations are for elderly people and their carers in mid to late stages of dementia which is not appropriate for EAOD.
I started to search the internet for anyone who was like me, who I could talk to who understood how I was feeling and what life was like for me and found several wonderful people in online groups who chose to allow ONLY people living with the disease. I found the Dementia Alliance International, Facebook groups and joined them all. I have become involved in Dementia Mentors a group who can talk one-to-one online with newly diagnosed people to give an honest view with how to live well and positively with the disease. We are people from all corners of the world and I am so grateful to have them as friends. These groups are for those living with the disease in its many forms and are organised and run by the same people. I have been given a voice, and I am not a patient.
We all look to educating anyone we can about EOAD, to understand that we need support but we need to be empowered to do it ourselves.
When I was at the meeting with the ALZ Org I realised that they just did not get it. They had no understanding of Young and or EOAD, probably because they were so used to people with more progressive stages of the disease. They are used to organising people and activities to what the carers have said their partners have enjoyed in the past.
Working with Younger EOAD is different because we can mostly communicate well, and our intelligence is not affected, and we NEED to be in control of what we are doing until we no longer are able to. We need to live normally with our dementia the best way we can making our own decisions, we need everybody to LISTEN to what we are saying, understand what we are saying and not dismiss us to talk to our partners.
Partners do have a role to play in groups we attend for medical or social events because a lot of the time they drive us there, they support when we are there and support us at home, but primarily this should be our group, and there is no reason they cannot support each other at the group. I guess I am saying there is nothing wrong in have two separate sides to a social group, living with dementia on one side, carers on the other, coming together at times and respecting each others voices.
I am going to try and make a difference to the group that met through the workers who got it so wrong on the day. If I don’t try then nobody will learn anything.
Wish me luck as I feel it will be a hard slog and long process.
Thanks for listening.