So after an amazing few hours in my paradise of Keswick on Friday afternoon, I eventually had to say farewell and make my way back to Penrith but not before one last piccie
I said to myself at the beginning of the year, how I wanted to talk to different groups in different settings than the norm and I’ve been lucky so far as I have. From End of Life talks, Stoma Nurses to Care Homes, and now Churches.
I’ve never been a Church attender so all this was definitely a different environment for me.
David and Yvonne were meeting me off the bus at 5pm and taking me back to the hotel for a cuppa and a chat about the event the following day on Saturday…….I realised on the bus that I didn’t know what they looked like and it would be dark when I arrived. So I txt them both to say I’d be in my yellow coat. They were there as promised and we drove back to the lovely hotel very close by.
Over a cuppa, they filled me in on numbers attending – their largest yet….and the format of the day, asking me what would help me.
Amazingly, even though it was a ‘Cumbrian Churches’ event, people were expected from North Wales, Lincoln and the North East! Their concern and offers of help at any point were wonderful and are so rarely thought of by many organisers.
They’d also arranged for someone to come and pick me up in the morning….and Margaret arrived and picked me up on time. Apparently she met me at Keswick when I went to launch something there 😳……. We trundled to the church hall, the venue for the day…and met up with lots of smiley people, selling a few books before we even started.
Yvonne started off the day welcoming everyone ….and spoke of their ‘Dementia Enablers’……people who are a point of contact to support those in the churches community.
She spoke of the aim to have every church in Cumbria, dementia friendly by 2020 and have 150 enablers in place. I’d never heard of these ‘enablers before…..
They create new shorter services have been developed in some with tea and cake afterwards and familiar hymns…there is no set way to fulfill the needs of the community so nothing is a silly idea. They create what works for the individual…..perfect….
Although their project is coming to the an end next year, they announced their work would continue – non judgemental, for all faiths, for all people. Their main aim is to create ‘Anna Chaplaincy’ throughout the region…their new project…
Next up was Rev Lucie Lunn whose talk was entitled ‘Towards Theology of Dementia……’……she explained it means a ‘movement towards’….how personal stories of people with dementia are key and how this effects the religious purpose in their life …
Lucie remembers visiting her great aunt as a child, where a nurse let her and her father in through a locked door and locked the door behind her…..now she realised it was a mental institute……but remembers the repetition of stories……how the word dementia didn’t exist back then, ‘losing your marbles’ was used instead. So she went on to talk about language….⭐️
After she was ordained she met a woman with vascular dementia called Jenny…..her husband asked her to visit her one day as he thought she was going to die….just having been ordained, she wasn’t ready to take her first funeral…so she prayed next to Jenny, saying ‘PLEASE don’t die’….🤣😂…..and she didn’t for 14 months….she had many wonderful conversation with Jenny, in the moment, as a child,and she lived in her moment. The care home manager said to her one day, “you would have loved Jenny before dementia, shame you never got to know her”…..This took her back and she replied by saying:
‘but I do know Jenny, Jenny is still here”…beautiful……❤️
From her perspective, it’s not about being academic, being a theologian, it’s about sharing stories……all experiences matter, through good and bad times……seeing people as a whole
She spoke of dignity, and how for many people that usually means they don’t want to lose control…
A surprisingly lovely talk and lovely person…
Hilary Binks, a dementia enabler was up next to talk about an ‘Anthology of Colour’…it’s a collection of memories and prose inspired by colour……it was sparked by a poem by Brian Keenan, held hostage in Beirut in solitary confinement, her granddaughter read the poem……..about the imaginary bowl of colourful fruit that appears in his dark filthy cell in his mind……the colour ‘orange’……
She was cajoled into organising a writing group at her housing centre and the first topic she chose was ‘Colour’…..short stories about ‘red patent shoes’, ‘In the pink’ poem…….
3 years on and they now have a booklet produced containing all the stories and poems…..a small booklet with powerful messages, which showed you’re never too old to do something new…..when you lose a loved one the colour can go out of your life and the interaction and small acts of kindness can bring colour back……
A lovely idea…..to bring colour into peoples lives………….
After a cuppa, it was my turn…..I had about an hour and spoke of this that and everything including:
“Local communities, like church groups can provide us with the stability we need as everything else around us changes.”
Their kindness afterwards was overwhelming and many questions followed. We had to stop in the end as it was lunch time.Lunch time was spent chatting to lots of people and sold the final copies of my book and had wonderful conversations. One lady came up to me towards the end….her eyes told me she was struggling with dementia …..she looked at me and simply said…
“Thank you….you’ve given me hope”
Makes it all worthwhile……
After lunch was Di and Les from playlist for life who had travelled from Norfolk…….
Playlist for life offers a therapeutic alternative through music……They both have a passion for music so the Glasgow based charity was the perfect match. The charity was started by Sally Magnuson after the death of her mum who had noticed how music had helped on a daily basis. Their mission is to get everyone to make a playlist for life……because as dementia progresses it becomes more difficult to find out what music people like. If you already have a playlist, it’s sorted. Even if you don’t get dementia it’s still relevant and special.
Music is special because it stimulates the brain. The parts of our brain that process music are the earliest parts of the brain to have evolved..’Flash back’ music is important because it has a memory attached to it…..music apparently makes the most impact on you between 10-30 yrs – called the ‘Memory Bump’.
Music can alter the mood, can energise, can calm people and evoke memories….
It could be used in a care home by therapeutically scheduling music at a time when people regularly struggle…..it could be used to ‘connect’ during a visit…The benefits for people with dementia have shown to be massive…..the Gp of one care home now ‘perscribes’ music as a therapeutic intervention
They were lovely speakers, very calming, very easy to listen to…..
Each presenter today was very easy to list to. Talks scattered with humour and seriousness. A great combination. No death by PowerPoint as the bit of PowerPoint that was used was purposeful……until we got to Colin from the Alzheimer’s society, who was there to talk about Research Developments in dementia……it’s difficult to make research fun and simple to understand, but not impossible as many people, including academics, do it all the time. But sadly his talk was too far removed from the simplicity of the other speakers, too many facts and figures and slides that were far too fussy and unreadable. If you know the audience can’t read or see the slide why show them?
Colin only arrived at lunchtime so didn’t see the format and style of the rest of the speakers. It appeared to be a standard presentation instead of purposely created for the audience, continually saying ‘I shared this slide last year’……why??? he’s a lovely chappie but sadly got it wrong today…
Sadly I switched off, even though research is a passion of mine..…..it made me sad for the organisers after all the joy and reality created by the other speakers…….the Society is often preaching to academics and students to make presentations appropriate for lay people to feel engaged, but sadly, today, Colin didn’t practice what he preaches…..one of many reasons I stepped down as a Society Ambassador a week or so ago…very sad
……instead I stared at the lovely setting we were in…
My brain was also starting to turn to mush….this Duracell bunny was running on empty…..Colin was the last speaker but thankfully the last words went to Rev Lucie and they were lovely and lifted my mood once more. We even sang the first verse of Amazing Grace before the event was over and Yvonne and Brian thanked all the army of volunteers for making it a special event
What a lovely day. It felt like a nice kind gentle event where people were willing to listen, learn and support one another…….I had such a nice time and was supported beyond belief so a huge thank you to Yvonne and Brian for making my visit possible and of course, it meaning I could spend a few hours in paradise….a wonderful tonic for anyone……..😊