New diagnosis, and a failing NHS service

I feel sad for the NHS, I feel sad for us all in the UK who use it.   Good services in the NHS is a postcode lottery.  Sadly, those of us living with Dementia in the North East of England the service falls short of acceptable.

Go on prove me wrong!

On more than one occasion have I heard it said by Memory Clinic consultants and Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPN) that “once you have a diagnosis then you don’t need any other [clinical] follow ups because there is no treatment”.  Yes, that has been said to me with the advice that there is no point in even visiting me to check on my progress.   I felt that I knew more than the CPN about dementia and put it to him the reasons why the service should be ongoing e.g.  developing more than one type of dementia.

At present I am seeing a consultant at the Eye Infirmary because I am having real problems with my right eye.  After a myriad of tests, it shows: there is no physical abnormality with my eye, nor blood supply, my visual field test is normal, but I am missing vision in a barcode pattern.   So, areas of vision is not being processed by my brain.    This is becoming a big problem for me because my vision is becoming blurred.

I recently saw a Neurologist for the first time in this area, after one of the practice GP’s referred me, who discussed with me the problems that I am having with intermittent swallowing  issues, and the fact I have not progressed with Alzheimers in over 8 years.  I sometimes choke when I am eating;  it feels like I sometimes forget how to separate breathing and swallowing at the same time. Not majorly problematic at the moment as I always cough – then sneeze explosively scaring the life out of all those around me !   We talked about how it may be that my brain has to really focus on what I am doing to maintain the attention to do the actions.  Including automatic actions such as breathing and swallowing.   She suggested that I may be able to be referred to someone in Newcastle who specialises and does research regarding people with atypical dementias (dementia that doesn’t follow normal patterns).   She would not see me again but would write to the psychiatrist I have seen in the Older Persons Memory Clinic (there is no provision for younger people in this area) and suggest that.

Meanwhile, one of my GP’s at the Surger also wrote to the memory clinic suggesting an MRI because I have only had a SPECT scan (which measures blood flow).  An MRI would certainly give a clearer picture of my brain.

I was sent an appointment for the MRI and had it done.  Then comes the waiting for the appointment with the consultant (Old Peoples Memory Clinic) to discuss the results…………………………….

But, there is NO appointment!   What do I get – a COPY of a letter she has written to the Neurologist, who is not seeing me again, to say that to:

1)  this raises the question of whether I have Alzheimer’s,

2) I have FTD, Frontotemporal Dementia and

3) Starting the medication Rivastigmene very early has indeed had a slowing effect on my dementia,

4) All of the above

5) She is..

“..leaving and will not be able to follow this up with her but she will remain open to the team at this point.  If she does wish to have a referral onto Professor G,  I would ask Ken S to either liaise with yourselves or discuss with my replacement about the possibility of a referral onwards if necessary”

Let’s recap:   Neurologist is not seeing me again,  Psychiatrist is leaving and has no intention of seeing me or following up on my MRI.  NOBODY has discussed anything with ME and has no intention to.  IF, if I want  referral!!   Of course I want a bloody referral, well this has been left to the CPN who appears to know less about dementia than I do.  This is based on my experience in discussing with him about dementia some of it he was totally unaware of.  Maybe this is because he only sees elderly people who are in the medium to late stages of their disease.

Am I fuming?   Too damn right I am fuming.  A new diagnosis to come to terms with is not just a simple, Oh, I’ve got FTD not Alzheimer’s, or Oh, I’ve got FTD and Alzheimer’s.  The prognosis is different, this is my life, my health that nobody seems interested in.  It took me 6 months to come to terms with Alzheimer’s, is this something new I now have to come to terms with?

 TEES, ESK AND WEAR VALLEYS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST – YOU ARE TOTALLY RUBBISH!

 

 

 

 

Singing for the brain..my way

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Sunday at the Coalhouse a micro pub/Real Ale bar.   Open mike night every other Sunday starting at 3pm.  Home by 8.30 or 9pm!

Of course my friend Lynn and I visit this, our local to enjoy the atmosphere, have a drink and listen/join in with the excellent artists singing.

I sound like an advert don’t I, or a drunken mate trying to get you to join us for a jolly good time

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What I am getting at is that singing is good for the brain, and Dementia Choirs are an excellent way to enjoy a pleasure we can all do which is sing.  It stimulates lovely memories of music you have enjoyed as a teen/mum/dad, on holiday, a celebration, or a time in your life you associate with a loved one.   I am not talking war songs or music from the 40’s here, I am talking music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on.   As more people are diagnosed with a memory or dementia related illness younger it is important that music is age appropriate.

I am not keen on joining a choir, I don’t have a particularly good voice, not that matters one bit, but I think I don’t like the organised bit of it.

For me I like to hear a live band, or a live singer.   Music in the Coalhouse can range anything from folk, Snow Patrol to Creedance clear water, even a bit of Hendrix.  Now there’s my type of music at times!   To these I sing my head off!  Lynn and I are occasionally give a Tamborine and Maracas and we go for it.

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Lynn took a picture of me and my daughter singing, playing and having fun.  This for me, is my singing for the brain.  Suck it up Dementia singing loud and out of tune!!!

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So don’t stop going to the pub when live music is on, stay for as short a time as you want, choose an ‘open mike’ event, where singers with a guitar, or singer songwriters just get up and sing.   Staying even a short amount of time is invigorating.  If classical music is your thing, then how about finding lunchtime concerts?   I find it difficult to cope with loud noise or too much background noise, but this is something I find immensely enjoyable because in a small place the level of sound is usually pitched correctly and not enough to blow your ears off.  Everybody is singing, you are so engaged that any other background noise simply disappears.

So get your positive pants on and go for it …

Change of site name!

Some of you who read my posts may have notices that I have changed the name of my page.  It used to be ‘Before I Forget’, and I realised that there are so many pages with that name which may be more important than mine so thought of a new name.

My URL is http://www.handbagwarrior.com, the domain which I bought a year or so ago, and I identify with the name handbagwarrior in my passion for helping to educate my local town about living with Dementia. I sometime feel like a warrior trying to support my local community to stop being ashamed of the  diagnosis and to start looking at how people can live well.   So, for me the most natural name for my site is Handbagwarrior: Dementia and me.   It has been a long struggle for me to identify who I am now.  No matter how others see me, it is how I feel about myself that I needed to change.  For a long time I have felt lost as me, when you leave work because of illness you lose your identity initially and when your illness is Dementia it felt like all that I had been disappeared then.

Today I am firmly ensconced in my new community.  I am a handbagwarrior in bringing about change in how dementia is seen within the community, and the provision for younger people and those with early diagnosis.  I work hard networking and trying to change perceptions.  I have set up a peer support group ‘Lets Meet Up, peer support group‘, and am formalising the constitution for the umbrella group ofLets Meet Up’.  So under this umbrella is also Lets meet up Art and Social Group.  Constituting the group will enable us to raise our own funds with the sale of things that the Art Group can produce.  My next challenge is to find a permanent home for the group to meet in every week.  My dream would be to have an empty shop to open up a Community Hub in.  Somewhere that groups such as ours can meet on a regular basis, a place that can house information about all the groups and charities that are available in the area.  Lots of peer support groups look for somewhere to meet, so I don’t think it would be hard to fill the place.  I have already made some noise regarding this and fingers crossed this will happen within the next year.  Of course its not just me doing this, I do have a side-kick, Lynn B.  She is a tireless whirlwind! and we bounce off each other as we attend meetings, appointments and network together to achieve what we need.  We are the working group of Dementia Friendly Seaham so there is a cross over in our endeavours.

So, my dementia is very slow progressing and during this time I have a need to get done as much as I can within my community for other like myself.

So, that is why I have changed the name. 😁

Gill x

 

Feeling….stressed, despondent…but still wearing positive pants

th-2There are days when I feel I can no longer compete with organisational ‘experts’, with regards to what’s best for me and other people living with dementia.

That I can no longer stop others from deciding what us people living with dementia need, or want to fit their ‘brief’.

I get upset at how what I am saying, or my voice, is being blown away on a wind of ‘organisational’…I am sitting here trying to think what word to use but can’t quite get it.. constrictions, not fitting an organisational brief..

I am a strong advocate for people living with dementia to live with the positiveness of CAN DO.  Of overcoming the fear of their diagnosis and trying to do as much as they are able and then, going beyond that.  Having a say in what they want, what they will accept others doing for them, having a voice that is heard.  Trying something new, revisiting something they used to do.  Adapt what they want to do in a way that they achieve more than they thought they ever would.

The saying “There’s no such word as can’t” is so underrated.

At this point I had written a lot of why I was writing this and then realised that it was the wrong thing to do.  So what I will write instead is what I feel is important for Society/Communities/Organisations to understand.

If you are living with any form of MCI or PLWD (Person/People Living With Dementia), it is import to keep going.  Before diagnosis people had their own autonomy;  do you want to?  how do you want this to be?  give us some ideas that you would accept…  and such like.    After diagnosis this should still be the norm for any organisation when they are providing for us.   Most people working in organisations that provide some service for PWD have training.  NVQ Level 2/3 in Dementia, Social Care degrees/Masters, or ongoing comprehensive in-house training.   But, this training can never take the place of the voices of people living with dementia.  Our actions, ideas or input should never put behind that of an organisation.

It is always worth reminding society that PLWD once had careers and backgrounds that may have surpassed anything that any dementia provider has done.   All careers from shop assistant upwards are vital roles, but it seems that when someone is diagnosed everyone forgets what they are capable of, so if they are making a suggestion or offering to do something it is of no small consequence, because they may just have more knowledge than realised.

I really don’t want to be told what I cannot do, because I can try to do anything I like as long as it is legal and will not hinder any other process.   I don’t necessarily always want to leave things to the ‘experts’ if I can do something myself.

My thoughts are to step away from a situation for my own wellbeing, but this isn’t about me this is about all people living with dementia having a REAL voice.

 

Dementia: Always explaining myself

I went to see a doctor the other day, because I have a long standing problem with my knees and they hurt.   I have not been able to use steps/stairs for a couple of years now.

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So, I explain that I have a congenital deformity in my knees and they are so bad now I can’t climb stairs etc…   Doctor asks me to explain what ‘congenital deformity’ I have.  “The knobs on the top of my tibia are too narrow for my patella to move over up and down without rubbing the bone, and my patella sits too high”  I answer then telling him that I had an operation on one knee in my 20’s giving the correct term –  “A Tibial Tubercle Transfer”.   He murmurs something about my patella, which I don’t quite catch so can’t answer him.

His next question is:  “Why do you have your medication in a nomad pack?” (see my previous post on this subject)  I suddenly feel like I am in a parallel universe in a different consultation.  What?

Me:  “I have Alzheimer’s”.    Dr: “You have it delivered weekly?”  Me: no I collect it monthly.  Dr:  4 packs at a time?  Me: Yes!?!?  Another Doctor from this surgery phoned the chemist and arranged that I could pick it up once a month.  I am not housebound I cannot change my life to collect it every week.

Then I find I am justifying myself by telling him that my Alzheimer’s is at the very early stages.  I say this twice.   I swear if I find he has stopped this arrangement to give me a  4 weeks of nomads packs of medication I will scream….. Arrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!   and breathe…

Knees, focus on my knees!

And yesterday I go for some X-rays on both my knees, some standing up, then they tell me to go over to the bed.     I don’t understand what they mean?  So they repeat ‘go over to the bed‘.    This is where my dementia kicks in, go over to the bed, then what?  Do they mean me to get on the bed, sit on the bed, lie on the bed?  I am tired of my brain not working properly at times.    It is frustrating not being able to understand the meaning of simple sentences at times.  It makes me feel stupid, which of course I know I’m not but other people don’t know that when I am not responding.   The X-ray technicians would not know I have Alzheimer’s which makes me even more embarrassed that I stood there like a dummy whilst trying to work out what to do.

Hey ho.    Onwards and upwards.  🙂

 

 

 

“Nothing about us without us” 

Why is this a hard concept to get.   There are some truly lovely, and wonderful people wanting to offer people living with dementia activities in the community.

My word of advice as someone living with dementia:

  1. Know your community
  2. Make sure you do not do anything without having someone living with dementia to consult with.  If these are the people you are doing things for, then ask them first.

What if you have no one to ask?   What!   Why on earth are you starting things for people without reaching out to them first?   Do you see what I am saying here?  If you have no one to ask then you don’t know who is in your community who need your help in accessing activities or support.

Does your GP Surgery/Memory Clinic signpost your activity to people who are newly diagnosed living with a memory issue or dementia?   These are the people who need peer support and acitivities.  First build relationships with your medical centres so that they can tell someone newly diagnosed there is peer support for them to access. Otherwise they can feel that life is over, that there is nothing for them to do other than let their families take over and sit and make the best out of nothing.

Here in the North East of England, DEMENTIA is a word that no-one will speak.  It appears to be a word to be ashamed of.  Families hide it away within themselves, and will only speak it when talking about having had a member who had ‘it’ – Said with such sadness and dread that requires the voice to lower a little.

I am trying, so so hard to change this in my local town.  I am now having to tell people if you want to reach people living with an early diagnosis then never, have the word ‘dementia‘ prominently in your name or description.  Instead focus on the word ‘memory’ difficulties with the additive of dementia hidden at the end.   Do I think this is a bad thing? No certainly not especially in an area that is not yet open to being open about dementia.   Who cares what it is called as long as people can access it whilst attitudes change slowly.

At the moment I feel alone in being involved in starting support/activity groups up because I am yet to be put in touch with others like me living with this disease.  They are around because I am told they are…..and that is where it ends…  If it were not for the few wonderful people who are passionate about changing our town then I think it would be hopeless.

It’s funny because you can see the other small towns where they have groups for people with dementia that is not focussed on early onset/diagnoses, because their posters and wording is very professional like, and ‘correct’.   It is all about them doing things for us, and whilst that is fantastic, it is all encompassing and not for the likes of younger diagnosed people such as myself.

I was part of a conversation the other day that was being had about groups in my Town, and someone saying “what we need is a minibus to take people to other nearby towns to join in activities”.       NO, what we need is for someone to ask ME, and others like me in my town what WE want.   Sorry, did I shout there.   Anyway, there will be a group/meeting/for people who are living with diagnosis of memory difficulties, MCI, and dementia to see if we can first reach people who are around locally.  Small steps.