Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I spent yesterday at the Birmingham Care Development Agency Care Provider Meeting. With a title like that, I bet you’re kicking yourselves you missed out. But don’t be deceived by the name because spending time with people from different aspects of the “care industry” – care home managers, charity workers, those trying to stretch tiny council budgets wide enough to help the vulnerable, the carers and the cared-for – was deeply rewarding. Everyone had one thing in common – we care. We care about loved ones and residents, and we care about care, about how this country provides support to everyone living here.
So often, when I hear politicians debating care provision, it sounds like an academic exercise as if care is a commodity to be bought and sold. Of course, social care has to be paid for but it should, first and foremost, be about people. If we can’t put those who need our support at the centre of all our discussions on care, then we are guilty of the most appalling negligence.
Everyone should hear the story of Tommy and his wee mum Joan. If you haven’t come across his blog – http://tommy-on-tour-2011.blogspot.co.uk/ – I urge to take some time to read it. When he talked about his mum’s diagnosis, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I was in pieces and at least two people on my table had to find a quiet spot in which to compose themselves. You see, no-one seemed to care about Tommy or Joan. “Go away and get one with it” seemed to be the message. We, my sister and I, were a little more fortunate because we weren’t sent home on the bus with a post-it note but support for Mum and for us could have been so much better.
“Ask us anything you need to,” we were told.
“But I don’t know anything about dementia so I don’t know what to ask,” was my reasonable reply.
“Well, ask us anything.”
It didn’t help.
Joan was diagnosed in 2007 and Mum in 2009. Things have improved since then but there’s still a great distance to travel.
There were plenty of smiles to partner the tears at the meeting in Birmingham. After lunch, we all took part in a Singing for the Brain session. I’ve written in an earlier post about the impact this can have on carers and the cared-for alike but for some, yesterday’s rousing version of The Grand Old Duke of York, complete with actions, was a first taste. We even managed a chorus of Bring Me Sunshine – Mum would have approved.
It’s rare to leave any gathering at which dementia is the main focus feeling so positive but it was a day very well spent. Hooking up with my best mate afterwards for food, beer and learned (?) debate made it complete. Tomorrow, I’m training to be a Dementia Friends Champion, another means of raising awareness. The message from yesterday’s meeting was all about working together to make a difference. Surely that isn’t too much to ask?