Category Archives: Education

A talk to Adult social care staff plus Talking Heads for the Ministry of Justice…..

Bet you’re wondering what on earth I’m going to write 🤣

Well in case you hadn’t been aware, this week is Dementia Awareness Week….I used to make a big thing of it, naively thinking massive changes would occur because of it….. but now it’s become tiring as dementia isn’t just for a week it’s now for life. Once the week is over, dementia gets a back seat again and rarely does it make any difference. However, I’m always kept busy with offers of talks and have been booked up for months…..

So Monday morning of this hectic week was taken up by a talk to North Yorkshire County Council staff during their Festival of Practice. Adult Social Care staff would be the main attendees. The person that contacted me, Tamar Goudie, had apparently met me 5 years ago when I spoke to student nurses…😳…she’s now a practice development person for North Yorkshire Adult social care staff.

The Festival of Practice is a month-long digital event where we host a number of talks and webinars on a variety of relevant topics in adult social care.” So I suppose I fit in nicely into Dementia Awareness week…..

The lovely smiley Tamar and Cara greeted me on screen a few minutes before just so I knew their faces and for them to ask if I needed anything. Then staff from all over the area from all disciplines began to join, from Occupational Therapists, to social workers, care staff, learning disabilities and many more.

They gave me an hour to talk, but I always leave 10-15 minutes for questions at the end. The social care world is very underrated, underpaid and understaffed. Near the end of my talk I said…

“Yes it is a daunting job to transform social care, but then surely it was a daunting job to create the NHS in the first place, but it happened.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if social care was a job of choice, with recognition, status, and a value placed on the skills of the staff?”

I always end on a reading and for this one it was ‘the gift’ of dementia which I love reading. It was so wonderful to have so many disciplines from Adult social care on one screen. Apparently there were over 100 and at the very end they all opened their screens so I could see them and wave goodbye, which felt very special….

My next talk was in the afternoon with staff from the Ministry of Justice…..so a very different audience which I love. But a short walk was in order first to recover from the morning session

A host of sparrows were hovering over the seed heads below….

Although they’re only on screen, they really are equally exhausting as face to face which involves travelling and a longer time period.

Anyway…I was contacted by Darren Fearnley, who along with his job there is also the Carers Network Lead for the Ministry. (Nice to know they have one!)

They have been running a series of ‘Talking Heads’….according to Darren, a bit like the adorable multi talented playwrite Alan Bennett series on TV. I was hooked on that series. The one I remember most is the 1987 late Thora Hird’s appearance in ‘A Cream Cracker under the Sofa’…it was so memorably moving. I love all Alan Bennett’s work 🥰

Alan Bennett is also a Yorkshireman so what’s not to like about this gentle character. I must have watched all his work at various points in my life 🥰 and it’s made me think I should watch them again…

The series of talks at the Ministry of Justice have been run along the lines of The Human Library, having people, who staff may be prejudiced against, or know very little, speak to them, telling them about their lives. I love the concept of the Human Library for reducing stigma against so many groups. So often when you talk to people as human beings, all pre conceived ideas melt away and what you see before you is just that – another human being.

So hats off to the Ministry of Justice and Darren in particular for attempting to reduce bias against certain groups in society. So that’s where I fitted in. Wanting to reduce the stigma and change the associations they may have of people living with dementia…….

It seemed to go well once more. No faces revealed this time apart from Darren, but I suppose Ministry of Justice has stricter protocol for on line talks 🤔

I’d aimed to talk as a more gentle meander through dementia as I really couldn’t imagine how much the audience would know. But one question at the end was asking the difference between Alzheimers and dementia, which I’m always happy to answer as it confuses so many.

Dementia is the umbrella term for all dementias, Alzheimers being just one and the most common but there are over 100 different types and it’s my belief that clinicians have yet to discover many more. Even though I’m diagnosed with mixed dementia, Alzheimers and Vascular, I believe I have traits from other types as well – sooo little is known about the brain compared to any other part of the body”

I’d forgotten how tiring I find two on lines in the same day. I felt wiped out half way through and remember at one stage having difficulty finding my words which weren’t on the paper – serves me right for going off piste 🤣…..

Darren finished the session off by asking them to put to one side their own stereotypical image, the image of someone with dementia as being old, sat in a care home watching telly and instead think of me wing walking……loved that ending

Another Recovery College opportunity….

The lovely Acho from the Recovery College had asked if me and Cathryn were up for another double act. They’ve all been via Microsoft Teams lately and we did think about having a face to face this time, but sadly we’re both so busy that it’s much more efficient for us both to do it on line for now and it means we can open up to others outside our area, but sadly only those in the UK – sorry my overseas pals.

Keep having to use this old piccie of us as we havn’t seen one another in ages!

And so the date we decided upon is Tuesday 19th July 10.30 -12.30 online via Microsoft Teams. So if anyone would like to join us for our session on Living with Dementia you’d be more than welcome but you need to register even though it’s free. So click the link below and it will take you to the right page

https://humberrecoverycollege.nhs.uk/

You have to sign up and register simply so they know genuine people are enrolling for our sessions….

Anyone can attend – those affected by dementia, healthcare professionals or anyone with a curiosity to learn more.

….or if you have any queries beforehand you can email them on:

HNF-TR.RecoveryCollege@nhs.net

A trip back to my childhood town…..

I can’t remember how or where I first met Laura from Yorkshire Ambulance 🤔….but I’d made a couple of training videos for their staff and public alike, the link to one is below…

Some time later Laura invited me to speak at their Dementia Campaign Celebration. It had been cancelled a couple of times I think, due to Covid and pressures on the service, so quite rightly so. But eventually a date was set of Thursday 5th May – last week.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read where they were having it…….Pontefract! My childhood home town 😳. I havn’t been back for years, probably since my parents died. I was so excited at the prospect.

I had to put out a post on the village Facebook page the night before, telling my neighbours not to panic if they see me being helped into an ambulance along with a suitcase 🤣….Craig was picking me up in an ambulance needed for the event and the suitcase was full of my books should anyone wish to purchase one.

I went to secondary school in Pontefract, the girls high school as it used to be then as we hadn’t been transported into the comprehensive system back then. I loved it there and my brother went to the boys equivalent, the boys grammar school – Kings School – and the event was being held at The Kings Croft Hotel, very near to his old school.

School days of my years were free from social media, mobile phones etc and I took pleasure instead in all the sports available. Playground bullying, yes, cyber bullying, thankfully no. But any misdemeanours were punished by a visit to the Headmistresses office – Mrs Molly Jackson. I always thought ‘Molly’ was too cute a name for her as she went everywhere with long strides and a flowing batman cape billowing behind her 🤣 We had to wait against the wall outside her office – a red light above her door meant ‘don’t you dare enter’ and a green light invited you to knock and wait for the command to ‘come in’.

Soo many traditions at my old school and I loved traditions; you knew where you stood with traditions…for example the last hymn of every term was always Jerusalem. Assembly was always at 9am and each year had their place sat on the floor. It wasn’t until you reached the mighty realms of the 6th form that you could actually sit in a chair – first year 6th, down the middle of the hall in twos and final year 6 were promoted to the stage……

I had some wonderful times at school…..I wonder if you can pick me out…..the first when I was in the first year

…and this one in my final year…

I’d totally forgotten that school uniform rules were relaxed in our final year 🤔…very ahead of its time…🤔

Anyway, enough of my wistful reminiscences….back to present time…

Originally I was due to meet playmate Gail for the very first time at this event, but sadly she’d had to cancel. But we promised each other that we really WOULD meet one day…

Craig was due to pick me up at 8am. It was 04.30 when I woke. I lay there, toying with the idea of going for a walk but resisted in the end, instead, having my shower and purposely not looking out of my window first. When I did, I could see that for once in several days, it was going to be a lovely clear sunny morning 🙄 with wisps of clouds instead of a wall to wall grey…

Oh well….tomorrow may be even nicer…I put my washing on so I could hang it out before I went and snuggled back in bed with a cuppa, going through my morning routine…

When Craig arrived I was met by a lovely smiley eyed masked ambulance man. I immediately took a selfie 😂 just to set Craig straight for the day ahead.

Off we set….we chatted happily for about an hour about this that and everything – such a lovely friendly caring chap – until suddenly, I started to recognise the surroundings – my childhood home…..Box Lane appeared and I remembered Hilda Pickersgill from the wool shop used to live in the post office on the corner. I used to go and ‘help out’ in the wool shop every Saturday morning, probably while my mum was at work or shopping but I soo loved it ‘playing shops’…….

Then we arrived at the hotel, and I’m sure, my brother will correct me if I’m wrong, but it looked like the place we met after my mums funeral 🤔

….after a piccie in front of our ambulance with Craig

And then with Laura who had been doing all this work

I went for a wander around the grounds…..the views were lovely

And also a twisted marvellous ancient looking tree…

I could have sat out here all day snapping away…..but I made my way went back into the room. I said to Laura how sad it was Gail wasn’t there and bless me, she led me to a board…and there was Gail’s face staring back at me – wonderful…..so I did manage to get a sort of hug from her after all…

The event began and I opened the day ending with my Billy the cat reading from my first book as I hadn’t read it in ages…….their applause was much appreciated.

It was then the turn of Cherry Tatlow from the Alzheimers society…….Who sadly made me sad……when she kept saying, ‘Alzheimer’s or dementia’ – Alzheimer’s IS a dementia…..such a basic mistake which will continue to confuse people if those who are suppose to know, don’t get it right……dementia is the umbrella term for all the different types of dementia including Alzheimers…

Then Karen Owen from Yorkshire ambulance spoke oodles of praise for the lovely Laura and the wonderful work she’d done along with the team. And she mentioned a phrase Laura had said to her:

Getting it right for people with dementia means you get it right for everyone” – perfect..

Then it was the turn of the Blue Light theatre company…..all ambulance people but in a charity amateur dramatic group….they performed a wonderful little play about dementia with lots of laughs and said and did all the right things 🥰…….2 different stories intertwined ..one of a young couple with the dad diagnosed and a mans mum having dementia…..very well done 🙌. that could have been sooo naff but instead was one of the best I’ve seen ⭐️ And I went and told them so afterwards before they left…

It was then time to do some work on scenarios but me and Prof Clare Surr from Leeds Beckett and another researcher whose name escapes me 🙈 went to look round the ambulances….the first was the Patient transport ambulance but I had to stop in my tracks as the slope up into the vehicle was black – apparently I hesitated and looked fearful, which Clare knew wasn’t me……

So that was really interesting….and fascinating to learn all they do……

Back to the workshop, we had to look at images and say which represented dementia best……some we didn’t think any did but it was an really interesting activity.

After an amazing lunch, which went down very well with everyone, people chatting and just enjoying the face to face experience with their colleagues again……. it was time for the final speech….the Trust has supported this event to the full and want to make a difference

So Kathy the chairman of the board for Yorkshire ambulance – said the final words, how the joy of today was seeing people not on a screen and reconnecting in person. The pandemic affected us all and not always in a good day….they put up with the demand in a way not thought possible. She made us laugh and she made us want to cry. In the middle of Covid they took on getting the Yorkshire ambulance to be dementia appropriate. At the time they wondered why when so much else is happening and it was Laura who convinced her why….

People with dementia need the ambulance staff as much as anyone else – we need to be compassionate to all our patients”
And so the day was over friendships reunited, people giving hugs, and simply chatting, just as it all used to be before Covid changed the world…..and as they all scattered back to their individual roles once more, the over riding message came…..

We must do it again!” And hopefully they will….

P.S. well did you spot me? In the first photo, I’m in the middle row, 3rd from the left and in the second, I’m in the top row 3rd from the left….☺️

Buy my book direct…..

An extra sneeky blog in your inbox today….🤣

Someone asked me via my blog if they could buy a copy of my book. It got me thinking, that of course I could sell signed copies to anyone wishing to buy one. I can only sign Wendyx though.

I took my book wrapped to the village post office this morning and they kindly weighed it and told me the postage – they even wrote it down for me :

First class – £2.39 and second class – £1.99

So if anyone would like to buy a signed copy direct from me it would cost £12.99 plus whichever postage you chose. It would have to be UK only sadly. Anyone interested should email me:

wendy7713@icloud.com

I’ll accept bank transfer or cheque as methods of payment but we can sort that out should anyone email me…

The other great news today, is that my book is still in the Sunday Times best seller list for the third week running! This week at No 6 so very happy. I never quite believe it until I see it in print…

Publications that helped share my book….. 

No book can be a success without some publicity and Jonny from Bloomsbury who looks after me has been exceptional at getting publications to see the need to share my book, in some way, to its own individual niche of an audience….I always ask them to be mindful of the language they use and so far they’ve all been spot on and obliged.

This last week or so, it was Age UK who shared an interview I did on line which I thought was wonderfully written and well pleased with the content…. You can click the link to read it…

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/discover/2022/january/wendy-mitchell-on-misconceptions-about-dementia/

Then Saga magazine also asked us to write a piece, which made me feel so old until I saw my favourite actress on the cover…

And it was a lovely piece.

The Big Issue supported me with the last book and again this time. A wonderful illustrator whose name now escapes me 🙈 did a great image to go with the article

https://www.bigissue.com/life/health/breaking-the-stigma-of-a-dementia-diagnosis/

Finally I might have already shared the Countryfile article 🤔, but they promised to send me the hard copy magazine, and they kept their word as it popped through my letter box last week ☺️. You can see the heading is “A wandering mind”. 

They asked me if I was happy with the title as many people use the phrase ‘wandering’ when in fact the person with dementia is walking with a purpose! I loved it as it puts the word in a different context and my mind wanders perfectly when I’m outside with nature

They even put the story on the cover…

And the Observer had a great review written by Nikki Gerrard, author and the person who helped bring in Johns Campaign (John was her father)

Even The Week published an article…..

More publications are due out soon…..☺️….and yes, I know I’m very lucky….😊

Why Johns campaign is so important…..

I’m re blogging this which I wrote after my mishap before christmas, simply because I was surprised by how many people hadn’t heard of Johns campaign and because lots of people had switched off social media for Christmas. the more I think about it, the more I know it should be used and advertised as being in use, in every healthcare establishment. so apologies to those who have already seen it – I just thought it deserved another outing, especially at the uncertain time we’re living in now……

Following my recent mishap and venture into the current NHS, I’ve been thinking so much of others that just aren’t in as fortunate a position as me…..

I have a voice that’s able to challenge, a daughter who knows the system…..what about those who may have agreed and resigned themselves to the fact that the ‘consultant knows best’….from what the second doctor said, if they hadn’t operated, arthritis would have set into that wrist very quickly and although I wont regain the movement I had, it will be a lot better than if they’d done nothing as the first suggested. 

Also its so important for Johns Campaign to be followed in every healthcare setting and for someone to be allowed to be with the person with dementia. 

Something so simple. Yes, I know Covid has put extreme pressure on the NHS but not allowing someone else to be there would lead to even more pressure – as we don’t feel comfortable, we then turn into ‘challenging patients’ and we give the wrong answers to some important questions.

Sarah has mentioned loads of things to me that I have no recollection of, like making sure I keep my shoulder and elbow moving as well as my fingers otherwise they’ll seize up. If id have been alone, how much would have gone by and the words left floating in the hospital room instead of in my head?

I’m lucky, ive developed ways to remember what’s being said, but even I missed so much. Someone left alone, as Dory was from the 4 amigos, would be in a different position since her daughter wasn’t allowed in with her. Dory would have still had a bad experience but her daughter would have been there to support and comfort her.

For some unknown reason, I’d forget, each time when asked, that I had an allergy to aspirin and Sarah was there to correct me. They asked me and if alone, I would simply have said no and they’d continue with their questions , instead of Sarah correcting me each time and them giving me a red wrist band to highlight they had to be careful – that could be so dangerous……

Sooo many hospitals report themselves as being dementia friendly

But sooo many now are refusing admission to supporters even at the entrance, as was the case with Dory. Even mine said ‘only patients allowed’, but as soon as we mentioned Johns Campaign Sarah was allowed to be with me. But how many others would not have known to challenge, not had the knowledge, the confidence to challenge someone they see as ‘being in authority’

I was much happier, much calmer and much more content in the knowledge that Sarah was there. 

I’ve said it so many times, I’m very lucky to be in the position I am; to be resourceful, to challenge, to have confidence and to have the comforting thought that my daughters will always do the same. 

Just how many others are not as lucky as me and who suffer the consequences …😢

you can find out more if you click the lick below…

https://johnscampaign.org.uk/

An update on my predicament …..

So, just to put the record straight, this blog isnt in real time. This bit actually happened last Thursday…..

We’d been promised a phone call from the consultant at 10.20 to tell me when to go in for my op. Sarah had come over to answer the phone for me. Sadly 12 hours sat on hard plastic chairs in A&E had done her back in, so she was in pain herself 🙈….….once again, we waited and waited …..at 12.30 we decided to go do the bits of shopping and keep the phone in our hands. 

No call came, but just as we pulled into my street, the phone rang, not to tell me to go in but a receptionist asking if we’d go into ‘discuss’. 😳 I  couldn’t imagine what there was to discuss, but we duly went once more and waited….and waited…..until the consultant called us in. 

Apparently on paper (having dementia) he didn’t think surgery was necessary as he ASSUMED I wouldn’t have any need for a left hand – so best left to heal by itself, by which time it would be rendered useless 😳🙈…

Me and sarah looked at one another in disbelief. He asked why i would need my left hand, what did i use it for? 😳 I could feel the air disappear from my body as I turned into this deshevelled crumpled person he wanted me to be……. It was then he stopped talking and ….

….thankfully, he had the grace to listen as i told him my left hand was as essential as my right; that I needed it for typing, and yes, I’ve written 2 books; and yes I have dementia. Me and Sarah took it in turns to tell him why I needed my left hand…From then on he treated me in a totally different way, so all credit to him as some may not have listened and learnt. But why oh why are people with dementia lumped into the category of ’without needs’. it feels like an uphill battle with every healthcare professional you meet. 😢 I left his room still numb from the idea he had that I didnt need surgery 🙈

It’s a very complex fracture, still dislocated but he pulled it back into a slightly better shape and put a new back slab on, they also gave me a much better sling which means i can go out with more comfort too.

The people in the fracture clinic who took me through all the pre op tests were lovely, even when they couldn’t get blood out of me. They waited for Charlie as she could get blood out of anyone 😂, which she duly did but out of my hand. 

Several hours later we left, both exhausted from it all. If a bed and theatre become available it should be in the next 2 weeks – so fingers toes and everything crossed please that it will be before Christmas 🤞

My last blog of the summer…..

I’m taking a short break from blogging. I was looking back at previous years and I always took August off. I just forgot until I was looking back 😂🙄……

It’s not that I’m stopping typing, heaven forbid. I learnt a hard lesson one Christmas which still sends shivers up my spine, the stories in my book. I’ll still be typing just not publishing. I’ll be back in September when hopefully normality will resume and children will be back at school again…and maybe even back in my paradise by the time I start up again…..

But I thought today I’d let you see a short video I made for Yorkshire Ambulance, in fact I made two….but I can’t find the first 🙄….anyway here’s my chat with the lovely Laura Williams…

As someone once said…”I’ll be back….”

One advantage of Zoom…..

Lockdown has in the main, been a bit of a bummer, but it’s also had many positives too. It’s given us time to just be, time to appreciate what’s around us and to question what’s important in our lives.

It’s also opened up the world to us in a very different way – via Zoom. I’ve spoken to Canadian students and a group of people from India connected to their health service – neither of which would have been in my grasp if it hadn’t have been for Zoom technology. I think the lockdown has taught us to use technology more often to allow different worlds to meet and hopefully will continue with this as lockdown eases.

The other week I was asked to speak to another group in India – Silver Talkies, an online community for the over 55’s in India. During lockdown, online communities have come into their own, especially where the population is spread, like India.

It’s fascinating talking to other cultures. Hearing their questions, comparing their life and life here….” Silver Talkies is a multi-dimensional platform for people who are 55 plus. Our team brings you features that highlight people, passions, trends, issues, opinions and solutions for the senior generation.”

Anyway here’s their article and the recording of my talk…

A Visit from Yorkshire Ambulance…….

Last week, or was it the week before 🤔….I had a visit from Laura Williams, Dementia Project Coordinator at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. 

She had spoken to Minds and Voices a few weeks earlier asking questions re how the ambulance service can help people with dementia and about our experiences. Laura was soaking up all the information we gave her. She also spoke to other groups, carers groups as both sides of the story are important.

The problem for me is, I would never call an ambulance – firstly because I wouldn’t be able to use the phone, especially with them rattling off all the questions, but mainly because I wouldn’t want to go to hospital. The experience in the ambulance may be calm and friendly, but as soon as you leave their hands in hospital, you’re exposed to the chaos inside. Also, because I live alone and have dementia, there’d be a strong possibility that  hospital staff would assume I can’t cope at home alone and I’d become a proverbial bed blocker while they decided my fate…..well that’s never gonna happen if I can help it. So no hospital for me…

I’ve gone off piste slightly 🤪……what I could do for Laura was explain the other ways ambulance staff can help people with dementia. Anyway, she emailed asking if they could make a video for staff to learn from, so that was how she and her camera lady turned up on my doorstep.

They’d both had a negative Covid test so we were able to film in my Conservatory

Laura had already sent the questions ahead of time so I could prepare I my head what to say, but luckily nothing was new. I’d answered all these questions a thousand times in one situation or another, so the question itself sparks the response from my lips. It also meant I had these questions in order to write this blog, otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what we’d talked about by the end…..🙄

What were the early signs causing you concern, that led to diagnosis?

Why is it so important to see the person not the dementia?

What do Yorkshire Ambulance need to be mindful of when treating a person living with dementia?

Tell me why carers are so important?

Seeing the person, not the dementia, allows assumptions not to be at the forefront of their mind. If people just knew me as Wendy with dementia, they may assume I ‘can’t’ instantly instead of seeing the things I can do, the views I do have. Assumptions can do a lot of damage….

Laura then asked some general questions.

What barriers have you experienced since living with the dementia?

Describe what it is like living with dementia?

What could other people do to adjust their behaviour to make life easier for you and other people living with dementia?

For the last question above I would have spoken about the importance of TIME and PATIENCE. We need time to think, time to reply. People tend to fill the silences which just confuse us more. Don’t be afraid of silence, we’re just thinking what to say, trying to put the words in the right order in our head. So for this you need patience.

I’m sure we added a few questions onto the end, which simply came out of the conversation, but they’re lost in my head now. It will be interesting to see the video when it’s complete to see what they were. One last piccie of me and Laura……

It’s good that Yorkshire ambulance are taking the trouble to find out more about people with dementia, after all, we rarely have a need for their services due to dementia, but due to another condition, which dementia simply adds another element to their visit and if not understood could lead to a traumatic experience for both parties….