I have really enjoyed my challenge the past three yeas plus working closely with people living with dementia and their carers and extended family. It is a very rewarding honour to be invited to support families and find ways with cognitive activities to bring some purpose and sunshine into daily routines.

It is a very hard role to be a carer to our loved ones and dementia can be a very cruel disease as it steals away the loved ones we have known and shared our lives with. My main issue is the little support that is available to family units though slowly in some areas some help is starting to be offered but really it isn’t anywhere near enough.

If you know any families who are having to face this challenge please try and be supportive, and most of all do not stop visiting as even a quick visit for a cuppa and a chat will help the family such a lot. The greatest gift we can give is of course our time!

Power of awareness… Sepsis and Dementia

I have always maintained that for charities and causes awareness is as vital as fundraising and they go hand in hand. Also it is no secret that information is power and enables us to work on ‘preventative rather than cure basis’ in certain areas of our lives.

I am so pleased that at long last both Dementia and Sepsis are getting the acknowledgement and awareness they so desperately need. What never fails to amaze me is that so often the best ambassadors are those that have either been personally affected and/or care for a loved one who has.

I stand in constant admiration for one such lady who despite having her life dramatically changed through Sepsis tirelessly spends time promoting awareness giving talks on looking out for the vital signs, acting quickly and asking the question. I am ashamed to say my blog has been neglected of late and last Friday was World Sepsis Awareness Day and sure enough this beautiful woman took time to record a very personal message on facebook. Kim Smith I salute you!!

A colleague and I debated last night via media whether there is an increase in Dementia or is it just we are hearing about it more now? On speaking to a client today who is a few years older than me (and had a family member with Dementia) he recalled how as a child if an elderly relative had Dementia they were just classed as mentally ill…how truly sad that feels now, so yes, awareness is working and we are making progress but have a long way to go.

To anyone coping with either a physical or mental illness which is life changing please ensure you ask for help when you need it, don’t struggle alone.

Remember talking about our emotions is the best cure…so start now.

Bereavement..the journey

I am of an age where so many colleagues and friends are now facing the loss of their parents. For some this may be expected following long term health problems and for others it may be as a result of something unexpected.

There are of course no easy ways to say goodbye to our loving mentors but the best way to honour their memory is to go onto achieve their dreams and those of your own. So often I talk to people who are torn with regards to how they feel uncomfortable in expressing their personal grief, and, for some, without feeling they are neglecting other family members.

I have always maintained that we keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and by talking about them rather than denying their existence or our feelings of great sadness in their passing. Grief takes on many forms and shapes and there is no ‘normal way’ and  at times something apparently non-related to our feelings will spark an emotion that we may feel unable to control.

Our senses will play a very important role for years to come as we may hear a piece of music which reminds us of our loved one. I found this personally to be the case whilst watching ‘Rocket man‘ (which if you haven’t seen it do so it is a brilliant film.) Elton John was a previous boyfriend’s fave artist – sadly he died at a young age but hearing this music transported me back in time with fond memories of young love.

Our sense of smell will also trigger memories – fresh lavender always reminds me of my maternal grandmother…and of course those mothballs -a firm favourite of ladies of a certain age of the time!

For those of you recently bereaved my thoughts are with you…cherish the memories, and if you need support don’t be afraid to seek it.

Dementia awareness

The fabulous series of ‘The restaurant that makes mistakes‘ came to a very heart warming and positive conclusion this week. What a great project and awareness vehicle this has been – proving how engagement and activities do actually improve the well-being and sense of self-worth for those living with dementia. Dementia can make people lose their self-esteem and bring on depression so anything we can do to help prevent this happening is a must.

My past three years of working with dementia clients and their carers and families has been a real privilege and a very rewarding challenge. I have seen first hand just how important positive personal engagement is to the person with dementia. How it can achieve such wonderful results in lifting the spirits of those around them who are facing some very sad changes in their partner/loved one on a day to day basis.

I have found that once families start to accept that their loved one has changed and will continual to do so they can cope better. As always I will fly the flag for the great support charities who have amazing literature and advice available…as with most things in life knowledge is power and learning ways to defuse situations will help ease many a challenging situation.

If you know of any families that are coping with this sad situation offer the hand of friendship. Try to support the main carer by giving them an opportunity to have time to themselves – remember caring is a 24/7 role and exhausting physically and emotionally.

Sara Payne

I watched last night’s ITV’s showing of ‘The Untold Story’ – Sarah Payne’s emotive account of the tragic disappearance and loss of her daughter. This amazing woman channelled her personal grief into something positive to benefit all our children in creating ‘Sarah’s Law’.

Some years back I had the opportunity to meet this formidable woman at a Stroke Association function where she was a truly inspirational speaker. Aside of the great things she has achieved she is a lovely woman and oh so humble.

As the summer holidays approach I always remind those with children to keep an eye on them as sadly those that wish our children harm are opportunists. We have to give our children freedom to some extent to allow them to be confident and grow but caution and concern remain with us on a day to day basis…even when they are grown up.


Those musical emotional triggers

We all know the value of musical therapy and how it can help to lift spirits in particular in the case of people meeting the challenge of having dementia. As with all senses a song or piece of music can trigger memories and remind us of  particular events in our life.

This is indeed true for me whenever I hear Doris Day’s songs and as  people around the world celebrate her great talent songs like ‘move over darling’ and ‘secret love’ will hold fond memories for many.

Of course she came from an era where not only were actresses expected to act they had to dance and sing and of course she could do all three. Our family favourite film is of course ‘Calamity Jane’   ..just blown in from the windy city!!

The films of that era were of course to inspire the feel good factor after the second world war, the rom coms of the day where the ending was always happy. I’m off to find my box set and have a sing along in memory of that fabulous blond girl next door!

The gardening bug

Any plant that comes into the house stands a good chance of being murdered but last year I started working on a wild small piece of land ‘the island’  as I call it. Slowly but surely it’s improved, with a few donated plants from a green fingered friend, a few bags of stones and pebbles it’s starting to take shape. With friends who know the difference between a weed and a plant I’ve tidied up the results of all the recent rain. But as I was told yesterday  ‘a weed is indeed a flower but in the wrong place!’

Yesterday a kind neighbour and I got to improving my sad attempt of a hedge hog retreat. Inspired by Brian May’s ‘Amazing Grace’ home for hedgehogs I hope other people will also try to help our cute spiky pals by providing a safe haven.

I won’t post a photo of said island just yet but here’s my photo of Ashridge woods looking amazing as usual a carpet of bluebells,

bluebell a