So, an update of being involved in Dementia action.
I am loving my new community, and who knew that the North East of England was so pro-active towards becoming Dementia friendly. Not just pro-active but mega pro-active and I am loving being able to join and be part of it.
I have been very much welcomed by all I meet, and am excited for my future here to be able to be so involved.
Sunderland and Durham Heritage Coast: I have already been to Crimdon Beach (which is absolutely beautiful and an important area for wildlife especially the Little Tern which come to breed there. I have agreed (without any hesitation) to work with them helping make this part of the East Coast dementia friendly.
East Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) – I accompanied Belinda from the Alzheimer’s Society to a meeting where she did a presentation about the progression of dementia friendly East Durham. I spoke about having moved to the area and how I was struck by the real sense of northern community and how it was important to encourage families caring for people with dementia to continue to make life as normal as possible and visit all of the places that are working hard to become dementia friendly.
Last week I visited Horden Welfare Park Vintage Cafe.
This park has history to it and the park itself is a real gem to visit. Originally paid for by the miners in the 1920’s it has one of Ray Lonsdale‘s scultures called ‘Marra’ and depicts a miner after the pits were closed with his heart ripped out. The cafe which is inside the park, put on afternoon tea and a walk around the park with a talk of its history. Staffed by volunteers it is delightful, china teapots, cups and saucers, plates and delicious cakes and sandwiches on vintage cake stands.
Me, being gluten free and not letting them know before hand, wasn’t able to eat any, however, they made me a salad not taking no for an answer! How lovely of them and it was delicious too.
Upstairs they have created a small museum of Horden which is absolutely fascinating. They have created a couple of rooms with furniture showing life in the miners cottages. And the photograph collection they have is immense.
These are the local places which are making real efforts to become dementia friendly and will become a superb place for afternoon tea and a walk.
As I am working with these groups and getting to know the area the more I see how much there is to educate the community of families who have always cared for each other. It is so easier for a family to do everything for someone and in that way they lose their independence and in a sense, their self. Education about how important it is to continue to help a person living with dementia to keep doing as much as they can has to be the way to improve dementia friendly communities. Take the person out for an afternoon locally many places and cafes are dementia friendly and a walk a cup of tea can brighten up everybody. Find groups that someone with dementia can go to independently so that they get the chance to do things for themselves.
I think at some point I will give my take on carers another time and how helping their people to join more things and get out and about can actually help them as well.
Remember, as always these are my own thoughts and opinions.
It is a busy and exciting week, this week. Dementia Action is all about getting communities to pledge some action towards helping people living with dementia to be inclusive in the community.
Today Monday 21st May 2018, our first day locall; Cineworld in Dalton Park, County Durham had a dementia friendly showing of The Greatest Showman. Which was a brilliant film I might add; the music was wonderful, and all the people I asked as they were leaving enjoyed it immensely. The music was memorable and definitely worth being played in any care home for their residence to enjoy!
So what changes did they have to make for a dementia friendly film showing?
Lighting: Well, they left a minimal amount of lighting on during the film. This didn’t make any difference to the quality of watching the film, in fact I didn’t really notice it, but it was comfortable if you needed to visit the toilet during the film. Also for people with dementia it meant that there was not a scary blackness around you.
Sound: The sound was lowered to an acceptable level. All too frequent the sound in a cinema can be so loud that it is quite traumatic for people with dementia, and also for people with any autistic spectrum. It was not so low you couldn’t hear what was being said, but was comfortable and loud enough for the singing to wonderfully uplifting. Music is so important to people living with dementia, they may not speak, or appear to respond but give us wonderful musical and you can reach parts that you never knew were still excited by such sounds.
Time: the film did not start until everybody was ready, seated comfortably and happy for it to start. No, this did not really take long at all, and we all waved to the guy in the box at the back running the film: and he gave his thumbs up – what a perfectly British acknowledgement that there is someone working in the back!
Being Comfortable: Being a dementia friendly showing, it was fine if anyone wanted to talk during the film, Maybe they were remembering a time when they sang or danced and wanted to talk about it to whomever they were with. It was fine for them to do so.
In the foyer some of the ladies asked for tea, not fizzy and popcorn but a nice cup of tea!
At present the floor in the foyer is a very shiny sparkly black polished granite type of flooring and there are several red florescent strip lighting overhead, which is supposed to reflect on the black…. heck I felt I was on a rolling boat as the red reflections appear to roll along as you walk. Very show biz!! but not very dementia friendly. However, they will be rolling out a red carpet along the floor, I presume for days when they are showing dementia friendly films. Who on earth are these architects with their heads in the clouds or worse…
Cineworld at Dalton Park has really tried hard to accommodate all the people living with dementia and the manager must be commended for being so accommodating. Hopefully this can be a once a month event for all people with disabilities and dementia.
I got to say a few words and was so pleased to see so many people with dementia enjoying this wonderful film.
So, this was my first day in supporting dementia friendly events in my new local community, and one which is one that is becoming more dementia friendly.
Tomorrow is another event….
Bizarrely I have developed an obsession with counting fingers and toes. I know a bit weird eh! It’s just that when I see a picture of people or animals hand or feet, they look like they have far too many digits on them! This is only when I see pictures mind you, not real hands or feet, or I don’t think so…no, I don’t usually focus on peoples hands..but I do focus on cats paws now I come to think it!
What is this about eh? I can’t just think ‘that’s a nice ordinary looking pair of feet’ , I actually have to count the toes, or fingers.
Some might say, what a load of rubbish, what has this got to do with Dementia. Answer, probably nothing, I have no idea. I do know that I have not spent my life counting fingers and toes and this is new to me, this compulsion. Why I thought to write about it was because it made me think of fiddle blankets.
It makes me wonder whether the change in the brain that makes some people with dementia more comfortable with keeping their hands busy with buttons and ribbons and the such like has any link to me needing to confirm that what I am seeing (fingers and toes) is just fooling me into thinking there are more. Okay I understand that it could be more to do with anxiety but that’s not how it feels to me. I don’t feel anxious about it, just curious about the illusion that I am seeing more than what is real.
So, I still have no idea why this has become something of a ‘thing’ for me right now but I think I might make myself a fiddle blanket for my future and maybe put some fingers and toes on it to count!!
Dementia is more complex than most people realise.
Having dementia is like being on a roller coaster, with good times, and then a blip of an overwhelming day. Mind you, life in general can be the same although with dementia it can feel just that bit more ghastly. So with an inane grin plastered across my face, (remember, smiling releases good endorphins) getting to a more positive state can be achieved adequately.
I’m getting there but thought I would share with you my thoughts so far.
My bathroom; yes it’s still empty; no I have not found help to sort it out yet; yes I am working on it. The local Alzheimer’s Society have been brilliant in that respect and are working hard to help me. I am feeling more positive because I might have finally found a company who are professional, use good quality products who can come in and start again and give me a bathroom. Yay!!! So, my overwhelming part is that I have to now find the information given me by Social Services to apply for a grant towards getting it done. Then I have to see if I can get a loan to pay it, or see if the Company does finance preferable at 0% interest. So, the beauty is that after 6 months of not being able to have a shower I am getting there. The warts are that I really need someone to talk through this process with to make sure I am doing the best thing for me now that my judgement is somewhat rubbish these days through dementia.
Note to self: for those of us living with dementia without family able to help us with decisions, it would be great to have a dementia advice line/support to chat to help us make better decisions. Who can we talk these things over with now? Someone who can ask us questions to make sure we are doing the right thing. Is this something that we can put in place locally? Actually this would work well for anyone who is vulnerable and who needs objective advice. Hmmm food for thought….
There are always positives to look forward to. When my fibromyalgia is not bad (which it is at the moment – it will abate), I have a garden which will become my relaxing escape place to be in away from the world. I am so excited thinking about the day when I can start it. Once I have my bathroom finished, I can start saving to get it fenced, and then the gardening starts. I am of course working on a 5 year plan!!! I have a beautiful coastline to walk along, pick up sea-glass, watch the birds, embrace the sea breeze.
Positive actions: sometimes just 10-15 minutes a day emptying yet another box from moving in will make me feel better, another strip of wallpaper scraped off the wall. Continuing my creative textile course, sewing the next piece of work. All these small things make my heart lighten. Not least is being involved locally in action for Dementia, making my home town dementia friendly, educating, and just being involved is such an enjoyment in itself.
So, on days when I feel alone and very overwhelmed with the things I used to be able to do without having to prepare myself, I try to look at what I love doing in my life, and what I have and what I can get excited about, and it works.
Take a deep breath, I just have to find a piece of paper I tidied away, make a simple phone call, ask some questions. Write it down so I don’t forget and can make sense of it.
Today I can do these things. Putting my pants on now.
I reached out to my online friends who live with dementia to ask about their thoughts, on being alone with dementia and caring for a family member with disabilities or mental health difficulties and the problems of finding physical/emotional support. I found others in a similar position to me so I am going to have a bit of a rant if I may.
Here’s the thing, the pictures I see in charity leaflets, papers, online, TV etc., of someone with dementia generally do not give the appearance of PWD living alone without support. Living with dementia can be equally as fulfilling as without it. We have the capacity to make the most of our lives. With support we can live a normal life.
With support……..bear with me here
Living alone doesn’t always mean ‘with family nearby‘ to support you. What if, you have a child, an adult child, who has disabilities of some kind? Autism, a physical disability, mental health difficulties that YOU support? There can be love there in abundance. The warmth and friendship of a parent and child that has grown over the years; what if they do not have the capacity to support you, but still needs you as their mother/father to make things okay for them? I don’t know any parent who would not want to be there to support them whatever age if their child needs them. The dilemma for me is that my child feels that they cannot burden me with their mental health problems. That is like a needle piercing my heart to hear that, knowing that they feel that my dementia stops me being a parent. With my own support, I could go to the moon and back for my child. I could be that support, because I would not be alone in doing so.
I believe some charities were originally set up to offer support, correct me if I am wrong. Choose any charity – they offered support by reaching out to the people who needed them. Listened to people face to face, and showing people they were not alone and they mattered. Supported physically, by chatting, having a cup of tea together and made them feel that they could do things.
Education is the key word these days so that most of the charities that work for Dementia is about awareness now. They have ploughed their funding into focussing on education. There is a great element that works to help communities to be dementia friendly but there is a massive hole now in befriending help. Finding a scheme that can offer a befriender/support to sit and chat to is impossible.
Where do they think we all go to get support when life is tough, when we are struggling really hard to cope with our own dementia and support our family at the same time? Who do they think we talk to, to get support with it? Giving out phone numbers for this agency or that agency, who only tell you that ‘it is not what they do‘ just sucks! Or suggesting that if you live on your own get to know your neighbours to fill that role. I am not sure that is so easy these days, especially when you have moved to a new area. Do you want your neighbours to know ALL of your family problems? If they are personal friends of yours they probably will anyway, but I am not sure if the suggestion means you should use them as support that way.
There are many people living with dementia, who live alone, without any family nearby, who are the main support for children (or other family members) with severe problems.
Whilst I am on support, I still have no bathroom- thats nearly 5 months now. Social services stood in my near empty bathroom a couple of weeks ago and said..
“We usually come and look to see how we can make adjustments for you, but you have no bathroom so there is nothing we can do”
They gave me a leaflet to apply for a grant that may be given toward getting one. I have phoned three people to get a quote….and not one has given me one. Why? Oh it would be so so good to be able to have some support to ask me ‘how’s it going?’ Spur me on to get another quote, or another and chase them up. In the meantime my child is having a mental breakdown, I do what I can, we speak every day, I try and help sort out finances – yes me! who struggles with her own stuff. (Funny how it is always easier to sort out someone else’s than your own). I relish doing this for them, I love them dearly and would go to the ends of the earth for them..I just need some support. Someone to talk to face to face.
All you charities out there supporting people with Dementia I say to you – Please please keep offering befriending services, not just education.
Thank you all, rant over.
I am in great need of cat cuddling this morning because I am falling into a black pit of despair. I cannot stop the tears leaking from my eyes so am smiling. Did you know smiling increases the ability to lift your spirits through….lets just say the effect of smiling has in the brain lifts moods. Is it working? Not really although I realise I look somewhat mad smiling through tears hold tight to my cat, who is loving it. She loves a good cuddle and her ‘motor’ is running on full right now – yes even whilst I am typing this, tucked under my arm her paws on my laptop.
This morning I am realising the enormity of my situation. No bathroom and I can’t find any practical help. The well meaning questions of have you contacted…such and such is not really helping. 15 years ago I wouldn’t be in this position, I would never have given my money over to a builder before they had at least done a good deal of work. But, having dementia means that your brain is seriously compromised. Just because I look and sound fine, well more than fine really, the hidden part of what dementia does to you is missed. Like how can you tell if someone is telling you the truth or not? How can you tell if what someone is saying is ‘joke’ and not meant to be taken seriously, how can you tell if someone is conning you or not? I can’t and it quite frankly terrifies the pants off me because you need these skills to make every day decisions.
So what I want is practical help. Someone who can do some hand-holding through what I need to do next. Someone who knows what to do and why it needs doing. People keep saying about how this organisation or that have given them practical help so I want to know ‘how did you get that help’? Here I am, no money, no bathroom and I cannot find anyone who does anything other than say you need to do this or phone this agency. Age UK don’t offer help apparently so they tell me, Citizens Advice Bureau offer advice, Alzheimer’s Society…don’t get me started on that one. So, what I need to know is WHO can give me some practical help of what to do?
Most of these charities, have now stopped giving practical help and have chosen to focus on advice. Well, advice to a single person who is trying to sort something out alone is absolutely worthless when they have dementia. What we need is someone to sit with us and ‘walk’ us through what to do, perhaps give some help on that, stage by stage. Give support, practical support. Someone to tell you “it’s okay we will sort it out”.
I hate dementia.
Going back to cuddling the cat.
Simons Cat does it best….