It’s been a busy week dementia-wise and it isn’t over yet. I have two more meetings today. Dementia is on the public’s radar like never before and if I’m allowed to be cynical, with politicians about to jostle for our votes, now is the time to take advantage of that.
Not that I think we need a General Election to fuel the debate at the moment. It might be my personal experience alone but I’m finding people more willing to talk about their experiences of dementia, both people living with the disease and those whose lives are touched by it in others ways, than at any time in the six years I’ve been involved with raising awareness.
Take this week. Two Dementia Friends sessions have introduced more than 40 “new friends” and prompted some rewarding discussions involving people very close to dementia’s front line. In between the two sessions, I visited Mum. As always, I told her all about what I was up to:
“I’m on my way to Herefordshire, Mum, to talk about you. What do you think I should say?”
If that seems a cruel question to ask to someone living with dementia, I apologise but it’s a question I ask myself often. What do I say when someone asks – “how’s your Mum?” I’ve started to take a photo of Mum with me to talks and Dementia Friends sessions. I want to introduce them to Mum as she was to the world, and still is to me. An often-smiling, loving, caring, warm human being. Today, I can see contentment but I know those wonderful qualities are still there too. When I’m asked about how Mum is, I tend to use the word content, as I did yesterday. A lady whose husband lives with dementia and who has just moved into a care home challenged me very gently. She couldn’t use the word “happy” about him. I don’t use the word “happy” either, I told her, but I do think contentment is appropriate. It’s been suggested to me that the Mum of just a few years ago would be horrified to see herself as she is today. I disagree. Saddened, perhaps, but not horrified.
If Mum could have rewarding discussions today, I’m sure she would talk about dementia just as she talked to me about so much that interested her. She would want to make sure that I understood as much about as she did. To raise my awareness, which is something she did throughout my formative years. That’s why raising awareness about dementia, talking about dementia, is so important to me.
Today, as Mum and I struggle to make a conversation that makes sense to either of us, I know it’s still good to talk.