Yesterday I woke up feeling very grey and misty….a busy weekend had led to me simply wanting to sit and stare out of my window, but luckily my calendar told me different. I’d been invited to speak to my favourite species, students……😍. The species this time were student social workers in their final year at Huddersfield University. I was confident they would bring a smile back to my face.
Admiral Nurse practitioner Suzanne Whiteman had asked me a while back. I’m sure I did this last year as I remember the lovely Maureen Winfield speaking alongside me, giving a supporters story……and my blog told me I had 🙄
Anyway, this time they were 3rd year students, so we were getting to them just in time before they were let loose on the world……
The day was a tad like my brain, grey and undecided as we trundled past the Humber….the sun was trying so hard to shine……
I hadn’t had the best of start to the day. My morning routine of solitaire and scrabble seeming like a mountain to climb and I’d also had a mishap with Tuesdays Train tickets …..I always put the following days bits out on top where I can see them, but I hadn’t noticed the puddle of water I’d sat them in…..I think I must have caught them just in time as I was able to peel them apart and could still read the vital bit on them 🙈🤯☹️…………hopefully the guards on the train will be kind people tomorrow…….
Waffling….sorry…….so back to yesterday……….
Suzanne and Maureen had arranged to meet me off my train in Huddersfield. On the journey, my partner in writing, Anna, WhatsApp me for a chat, so that helped get me in a better frame of mind. Emojis flew backwards and forwards making me smile.
Suzanne and Maureen were waiting as promised and we drove the short way to the uni and had time for a cuppa tea……..and what lovely smiley cups they were……
We made our way into the lecture room where the 3rd year students were just trundling back after lunch……Paul, their lecturer, arrived and went and got me another cuppa😊
Suzanne started off the session by talking about her role in Dementia UK. Initially she gave a brief overview about dementia, the rarer types and available support groups.
She showed a lovely film by Alzheimers Research UK, ‘What is dementia?’ You can see it below.
Her final slide showed the statement:
“Once you have met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia….”
One final film showed showed the story of Admiral Nurse, Matthew and a visit he made to one of the couples he supports….it can be found the Dementia UK web site:
He speaks of the role with the carers and showed him in conversation and helping the carer ……I wish they emphasised the work with people with dementia as well, especially those living alone….☹️……..
Anyway, it was then my turn then, I said…….how they could make a difference.
“Never write us off. We all had talents before a diagnosis of dementia we don’t suddenly lose those talents overnight when we receive that devastating diagnosis. You might be the very people who can help us see that.”
Maureen was next, and spoke about caring for her husband, who sadly died in January. She showed a lovely wedding photo of them both.
She stressed how everyone’s experience is different and how her husband, Michael, didn’t cope well with dementia. Her story is very emotional, they were childhood sweethearts. All the services were so fragmented so getting help was difficult. Katie, her Admiral Nurse became her lifeline.
When he no longer recognised Maureen, he thought he was having an affair with her and felt very guilty about cheating on his wife. This was very hard obviously, but Maureen dealt with it by thinking of the loyalty he’d shown her by being guilt ridden as he was looking for his younger wife – the Maureen he first married.
Maureen felt she broke her marriage vows by putting Michael in a home. Such is the guilt ridden life carers often live. The battle to get funding was dreadful and was the hardest thing, all adding to the stress. It shouldn’t be like this………
Maureen’s story was inevitably sad, but for me it was beautifully told and you could feel the love they had for one another all the way through. For me it was a beautiful tragic love story.
Tea break time …….cafe was closed, machine had broken down……🙈🤯😱, but I forgave Paul cos at least he tried.
We finished off with questions and Paul briefly showing the importance of Life story and getting to know the people can open up a lovely relationship them. And they suddenly came alive when I asked for a piccie 😂
These students will soon be working in social work and their attitude to people with dementia can influence those people’s lives. I wonder how much they realise the effect they could have on a family living with dementia in their lives…?
CS Lewis said,
“Friendship begins the moment you meet someone else and realise…..what you too?. I thought I was the only one……”
A lovely quote to end this blog……no one should ever be alone with dementia…..
Suzanne spoke of the amazing change and inroads made in the last 8-10 years…..but we’ve still a long way to go. I often say, it feels like lots has changed yet nothing has changed……..