Dementia Action week

Many people are in fear of Dementia and do not know how to act or behave in the company of somebody who has Dementia. No two cases are the same. However, in my experience of working closely with my lovely dementia clients I can honestly say that getting to know them, their likes, dislikes and their achievements before meeting this challenge can enable great communication and beautiful times for everyone.

There is no doubt that musical therapy is very successful and especially so for somebody that has always had a great appreciation of music. I have had some wonderful sessions over the years and met some ‘great conductors’ who really feel the music. I have one client who really should have been a drummer though plays his harmonica with great zest and we have had many laughs as we both learn to play the spoons until his carer confiscates them from us.

Joking aside the benefits of holding musical sessions and quizzes enables memories of times in their lives to flood back, a sing a long even a happy tear or two. I have often talked about transcient cascading bumps over the years in my blog -which are triggers the senses set off which can prompt a vivid memory. This is true of all the senses i.e. a perfume smell or maybe a baking apple pie which may remind somebody of their mother or grandmother’s cooking.

This week reach out to those you know who are meeting this challenge the greatest gift we can ever give…is our time.


Finding the light in dementia

I am recommending: ‘Finding the Light in Dementia’ by Jane M Mullens. A really useful and easy read ideal for carers and families with a loved one meeting the daily challenge of living with Dementia. Great tips and assistance in focusing ways to improve the way we interact with our loved one and at the same time making life slightly easier for ourselves.

Having worked with Dementia clients and their carers and extended families for six years plus this book is a very honest yet practical read. My own experience runs far short of the author’s years of dedication. However, as part of my own reflective reading and continued CPD I found this a positive read and compounded my quest to learn more and help those living with Dementia.

In my previous careers within marketing and public relations I always maintained communication is the key to success for any business and/or individual. This book certainly demonstrates the importance of why and how we chose to communicate.

Comfort eating

I have lost count of friends and clients admitting that during the Covid year they have been comfort eating. It is such an easy thing to do when worried, anxious or bored to reach for the biscuit tin or that tempting bar of chocolate.

We joke amongst our friends perhaps…as even I have that ‘we know our relationship with chocolate….we love it’ but in all seriousness the buzz is short lived from that few squares….and before we know it we have eaten the whole bar. Sound familiar?

Sometimes we don’t even know why we are grazing but turning our attention from food to perhaps learning a new skill is a better option and who knows we may even squeeze back into our jeans. A close friend is aiming to lose weight for a special occasion and I have volunteered to join her in her quest to lose a few pounds.

It’s been a long winter and comfort food such as sausage and mash seems far more appealing than a healthy salad but as summer seems to be taking her time to arrive (I am typing this wearing a thick jumper) I am certain that the salad option albeit tougher may just help us both in our quest. I’m going to have water melon and feta for lunch…no choccy!

Well…we can’t blame the weather and Covid for everything and forever so would-be-dieters lets make an effort to get slimmer and healthier we know it suits us better. The more sluggish we feel the harder it is.

I have a lovely client who hides the biscuit tin…but has shown me where it is…I am going to make a conscious effort not to look for it when I go in on Monday.

Happy dieting ladies.

Returning to what we love

I think if there is one thing 2020 and the pandemic has taught us it has got to be remember what makes us happy and do more of it. In our attempt to care for others in these difficult times we often neglect ourselves. Being thoughtful and putting others more vulnerable first is not a bad thing but we must remember we are important too.

In my support work delivering cognitive therapy to those with Dementia and counselling their amazing carers I constantly remind the carers that they must have a break and do things that give them respite and bring them joy. It may just be a hairdressing appointment or getting away to have a walk or just read a book. Being all consumed by our obligations which we may well carry out from a place of love can take its toll emotionally and physically.

Be kind to yourself as often as you can, don’t be lost in your commitments to the point that you suffer and begin to naturally feel resentful. And…of course laughter is great therapy…and my own mentor used to say ‘laughter is as good as a tonic’. Just yesterday working with one particular special couple we were practising some exercises which included laughter…actually a great deal of laughter.

I love my work, albeit some days are draining emotionally I know the families I am privileged to work with appreciate what I do, so all my studying, training and dedication have been worthwhile.

I confess my writing has been neglected, including my blog which I intend to remedy as I will shortly be starting another course and my blog during study time always acts as a reflective journal. Again…do something that you love and for me this has always been writing and using this love to help others.

Be mindful look to the future and follow your dreams we are all gradually getting back to some normality and the last year has helped many to feel grateful for what they have and those that they love.

Supporting those with Dementia

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.

World Alzheimer’s Month

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.

Returning to my blog

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.

Wearing masks

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.


Continual Professional Development

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!!

Writing memories for the family

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!