Next week is Dementia Action Week. Dementia is a word that strikes fear into the minds of anyone who has been affected by this disease either personally or within their family and have seen the devastating effects it takes on those nearest and dearest to you.
In 2016 someone very dear to me was diagnosed with the illness. For him, he refused to accept that he had it/has it and even now we call it his ‘memory issue’. Sadly, the illness had an underlying effect on our friendship.
I can only speak for myself as I think every diagnosis is different. My friend had always trouble to express his emotions and this manifested itself 100 times over the years leading up to the eventual diagnosis. Some strange comments directed towards me and others were passed off in my mind as ‘quirky’ and quickly brushed over instead of being investigated. I often feel racked with guilt that I did not pick up more quickly what was going on. But you cannot blame yourself. You can only do what you can do and we are all, after all, human. For my part, I find that when I am with my friend I mimic his behaviour so you would be hard pushed to figure out who has the illness!
Two years after the diagnosis I have done a lot of research on dementia, the causes and manifestations of the disease. The truth is that no-one really knows the true causes and there is still a lot of debate about what causes this dreadful disease to take hold. Being brutally honest here, and this is just my experience with my friend, he never had any hobbies as such and he never had interests outside of work. I used to say that quote “all work and no play will make Jack a dull boy”. I often used to think that eventually that would cause issues and I would encourage him to read and socialise. In my mind having friends and keeping yourself active is key.
I hang out with a bunch of amazing women and we all talk openly about memory loss. I admit mine is shot to pieces. I reflect on whether it had always been shot to pieces or it is it something more sinister. The business I ran with my business partner had certainly been a strain or, is my ‘tipsiness’ in fact, the menopause? The truth is if you are an empathetic person you can often be drawn into other people’s energies and find yourself emulating their behaviours – even if you don’t want to. My friend would often accuse me of losing and forgetting things, and generally being dipsy (he was right), so whenever he lost something or was not so ‘on it’ it could be deflected by my inefficiencies. For my part now, I struggle remembering names of people and I do the walk down the corridor and then forget what I was walking down the corridor for. But then again, when I share that with friends, we laugh and say: “oh we all do that”. Many of my friends also say they are good with faces but not names. I find it hard to absorb names unless it’s one I really know. But again, since I have come to Highcliffe and have been involved in active community activities with many people, run my own shop, joined ‘Meet Up’ and networking groups, and set up my business ‘The Lifestyle Concept’, it’s remarkable that I now know more people than most of my friends so if I call you ‘Sweetie’ you will know I’m having a senior moment .
There are many people out there just like you. My blog is to say that it’s okay to say: “I am worried about my memory”. I even said to my mum the other day that my memory was dreadful and that I thought that my move from London to Dorset, opening and closing a shop, four house moves, a long-term injury (broken ankle), my friend’s diagnosis, the guilt that I had not spotted the signs before, my personal development courses and lots of other stuff had made a difference. She just smiled and said: “Yes, probably, but you seem so much happier”. That put a smile on my face. Isn’t that what life is all about – accepting what is and not fighting it?
For those of you who need to talk I am here for you! I’m not an expert and I don’t have the answers to everything but you can share your stories with me and we can have a laugh over our shared ‘memory issues’. Over and the above that, the Alzheimer’s Society (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk
) are offering some amazing events in and around Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, e.g. singing to support the brain and a memory event where you can sit with your loved one and share memories with others.
At the end of the day, we all have this one life to lead and it’s best to lead it as well as you can. Laugh a lot, smile a lot, have friends, have hobbies, enjoy what you have and be grateful. None of us knows what is around the corner. Just embrace every second of every day and live your life being the best version of you. And if you can volunteer your time please do so. I am about to sign up to offer my singing skills to Alzheimer’s Society in Christchurch. As a keen singer myself, yes I do fancy going on ‘Britain Got Talent’ (joking aside), I want to use my singing, caring and ‘quirky’ personality to the very best use. Singing for the Brain(R) sounds like a genius idea!
With love – always your friend,