As we approach the end of Dementia awareness month I thought I should write a quick post. Dementia is a cruel illness and the ripples reach far and wide to all family and friends. Having Dementia is frightening and those fighting the battle feel vulnerable, and, for those close to them it can be difficult to read how they are feeling and coping with anything that is going on around them.
Patience and understanding are needed constantly, and, for carers this is very draining, and, at times distressing. As always I am reminding those that read my blog to support families that are meeting this challenge daily.
Please read my recent interview with BSY Group confirming the benefits of being a mature student, and, studying the Principles of Dementia Care during this year’s Corona lock-down.
September has been World Alzheimer’s month and I am sadly late helping to increase awareness on this occasion. However, as I work within this sector both with clients with dementia and supporting their carers I know I am making a difference every day. Whenever possible, I try to help with my writing projects and blog to encourage people not to abandon those friends and loved ones with dementia but to continue to visit, include and support both the person meeting the daily challenge and their amazing carers.
How we communicate with somebody with dementia is crucial, learning simple techniques, listening carefully, being patient when they struggle with words, avoid interrupting or finishing what they are trying to say. Keep eye contact and try to be sitting at their level. Always aim to include them in conversations. Try to remember a cheery disposition and positive body language will always help create a relaxed atmosphere.
As with anybody people suffering with dementia like to do things they enjoy –this may sound obvious but it’s true. Additionally, keeping their mind stimulated whether this is reading to them or anything of a creative nature can help them to feel involved and connected. I have helped clients to write some of their memories for their children – an activity I have run in the past in writers’ group. Dementia sufferers find it easier to discuss and recall the past and shared memories can be enjoyed by their children and grandchildren.
My message is to find ways to help support the family and maintain the connection with your friend or family member as they still exist and need your love, time and understanding.
I cannot believe how long it has been and no excuses but what a difficult time my lovely clients have had, and, I feel continually privileged to work with such amazing people meeting the challenge of dementia. So, why has my writing been neglected? Good question, when I of all people know just how valuable and therapeutic writing can be.
Fortunately, my good friend, and writing mentor, saved me last night reminding me that I have, aside of my chosen career the past five years plus, been a successful writer. Have I not been writing at all? No actually, I have but mainly in all my course assignments, the nature of which have been very emotive, as I increase my own emotional intelligence and counselling skills.
We are all, at times, guilty of neglecting things we love to do, when helping others, but we must continue to remember we are important too and find time for ourselves…see Debs I was listening!
As for my article writing….have only managed three donated pieces to our local newsletters, all to help the community… so I am not as useless as first feared. They seem to have been well received too
So known as the Redbourn Rambler, Annie the Activist and probably other worse titles. I am still alive and kicking and back on the blog circuit.
The wearing of masks has caused such huge debate over the past weeks, and maybe, albeit a bit late, we are now listening to the science and realising we should be wearing these especially in shops. Scotland already made it mandatory and looks like we will be following suit soon.
For many sensible people the wearing of masks has been simple and an obvious choice but for many the idea of wearing a mask brings issues of its own. For those with hearing challenges who rely on seeing the movement of somebody’s lips… coming into contact with somebody wearing a mask will knock their confidence. Additionally, for anybody who has other challenges such as young adults with learning difficulties or anyone meeting the day to day difficulties of living with dementia then, there are other emotionally issues to overcome. Being unable to see somebody’s lips when they are talking may be quite daunting and intimidating.
Locally, in my village, and luckily, we have some talented needle craft ladies busy making masks that not only look lovely but have the practical addition of a visual mouth section. This is amazing for the elderly that I have the pleasure of working with and my sincere thanks to Lorraine Ireland making these to order, and, making life easier for my lovely clients. This will make such a difference and encourage them to wear these and keep themselves safer.
During lock down I suspect like many people I found myself being unable to visit and work with clients. This was as disappointing for me as it was for my fab families meeting the daily challenge of dementia.
However, I decided to use my time wisely and got cracking on one of my courses and relieved as well as pleased to say I completed my Principles in Dementia Care course and passed. As soon as I was able to work with one family I found myself able to apply the new learning outcomes so my decision to do something worthwhile was the right one.
When we work for ourselves we have to, at times, ‘spread ourselves thin’ as we are our own: marketing, training and accounts department. I guess I am lucky as I have always enjoyed continual learning…though my recent qualification reminded me how I needed to update my website – how time flies. As I always remind others our website is our fluid CV and keeping that up to date is as important as keeping our self up to date in terms of training and of course the dreaded accounts…to keep the accountant and tax man happy.
I am a great advocate for being a mature student and frequently say we are never too old to learn new things. However, I still managed to munch my lock down through vast quantities of chocolate…studying is hungry work!!
During my cognitive sessions with my wonderful elderly clients I sometimes have the privilege of recording their memories for their families. If my dementia clients feels able and happy to discuss their memories and life time achievements (which by the way they can and enjoy) then it can make sense to write these up.
Many years ago I attended a college course on writing memories for the family and as I was ‘too young’ for most the homework assignments I enlisted help from my own mother. The letters containing stories came thick and fast and I thought I knew all of hers! Seriously, it is a lovely way of spending time with your grandparents and/or parents they have lived through some challenging changing times and their stories are part of all our social histories and should not be lost.
As far as people with dementia are concerned it is often their short term memory which has been sadly lost and their process to carry out activities, but, more often than not their old memories are there to be triggered, recalled and cherished.
I love my work it is rewarding there are tears some days but mainly laughter but it is so worthwhile. Huge thanks to my lovely Redbourn couple yesterday for a brilliant musical challenge you passed with flying colours…great singing too!
Last week ITV broadcasted the second part of Ross Kemp’s brilliant documentary about living with Dementia. Having treasures such as Babs Windsor and her husband highlighting the reality of how this disease steals away our loved ones is great in supporting awareness. Well worth watching on catch up if missed.
Equally, Naughty Boy speaking on Lorraine about his own experience with his mother who was 64 when diagnosed will reach another generation. He spoke from the heart and discussed the power of music saying when playing music to his own mother it proved how we again get to see ‘a glimpse of someone’.
Positive and happy interaction with somebody with dementia lifts their moods, engages them and allows them to contribute and feel involved. Please keep communicating and keep your loved one’s spirits raised and cherish their memories that they are still able to share.
Following carers week, today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is vital that we all try as best to look after family, friends and neighbours especially in these difficult times when it seems the scammers are out in force taking advantage again of those most vulnerable.
If you become of aware of any type of abuse including physical or verbal please ensure that you do something about it and let family and any necessary authorities know what’s happening. It is very easy to think somebody else will report something, so make the person that actually does…you!
I have seen some tragic blatant abuse over the years which is unforgivable and so unnecessary. I have always challenged anything I see, especially in nursing homes where the elderly are often most vulnerable and too afraid to report staff who will be looking after them.
Our elderly should be protected and held in high regards and not viewed as easy targets.
This week it is carers week and I hope that in these ‘new normal’ times that we can all make an effort to be more supportive of those amazing people who often without choice become a carer. Caring for somebody we love is a very difficult role to adopt as the relationship we have enjoyed for many years changes drastically, and, sometimes suddenly.
Carers are our unsung heroes they do what they do often selflessly so and without complaining. Their role is more often than not 24/7 and without even those close to them realising just how much they are doing, and/or if they are struggling. Many carers whether it be a mother and child relationship or a husband and wife team see this role as their natural duty and therefore hardly ever ask for help.
So what can we do to support them? Ask if they need help, then ask again…and, when they say ‘I’m fine’ then linger a moment longer and without fear of intruding ask;
‘Are you sure I can’t do anything?’
To all those carers out their I salute you for all that you do, and sometimes, at the cost of your own health.
Remember during lock down carers are having to do it without respite too – so keep the communication line open in whichever way you can.
I have been off my blog the past few weeks as I have been pre-occupied with working and completing my advance Dementia Care course in readiness of getting back at some stage with my lovely dementia clients and their amazing carers. During lock down it has been incredibly tough, with all forms of respite having closed down, carers have had to manage with little or no support.
In our village we have been fortunate to have had a great dementia hub running on a Friday morning and we have all really missed this opportunity to meet, socialise and enjoy cognitive activities. Hubs such as this give the carers a chance to talk to other carers and feel safe in an environment where everybody understands the challenge of living with a loved one with dementia.
We have a lovely hub co-ordinator and between us we have managed to maintain regular contact with all members and as I discussed today with one lovely member – we are like a family.
I hope when things return to some form of normality this group and other much needed respite centres can re-open. Meanwhile, if you know anybody who is a carer, not just of somebody with dementia, try and give them some type of support even if it is just a telephone call once a week so they know they are not forgotten.