Talking and listening

It’s been an interesting week. It started with me expecting to lead a Dementia Friends Awareness session at an event in Coventry. I’d been booked as a turn more than a month ago and as it was to be the first time I’d formally delivered an awareness talk, I’d spent some time preparing what I wanted to say and, more importantly, how I wanted to say it. A disturbed night’s sleep on Sunday night had featured a full, dreamt run through. I looked through my notes again on Monday morning. I was ready.

I’m still ready. Soon after I arrived, it was clear that this wasn’t the right forum for a Dementia Friends talk. The event was built around short, drop-in activities. A 45 minute awareness session wasn’t going to fit the schedule at all. Not that my being there was a waste of time in any way. I manned an Alzheimer’s Society stall for a couple of hours, during which time I spoke to one of the residents. When I explained why I was there, she said that dementia was the one thing she hadn’t got and our conversation amply supported that statement. It was clear she craved someone’s undivided attention. It was a privilege to hear her talk of a lifetime spent in Coventry, of her family, of her late husband. Talking to someone, listening to someone…these can seem like a gift to both parties.

On Tuesday, I went to see Mum. The contrast was marked because conversation, as we understand it, is nearly non-existent. Mum knows nothing of my life and seems to remember almost nothing of hers. There are so many wonderful memories I want to share with her. Sometimes I try but rarely does anything appear to register. And yet, as we sat holding hands, laughing, smiling and, of course, singing, our conversation was as meaningful as mine had been with my new friend the previous day. Sometimes, you don’t need words – time spent and a smile will do…oh, and a song, of course.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking to the Bishop of Coventry and his senior diocesan team about Dementia Friends. Explaining the need to build dementia friendly communities reinforced, once again, how much work there is to do but also how much the Dementia Friends initiative can achieve. The debate about care budgets will rage on but, despite the positive intentions espoused by some, it’s clear that those in positions of power and influence don’t have answers to many of the questions we face. That’s why creating those dementia friendly communities is so important. We can all play our part. 

So, my first Dementia Friends awareness session remains on hold. Not for long. 

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