In Scotland allied health professionals like occupational therapists and dietitians are a prominent part of the dementia care scene, perhaps even more so than in other parts of the UK. During #WorldAlzheimersMonth in September, Alzheimer Scotland devoted its Let’s Talk About Dementia blog to what was billed as an allied health professions (AHP) offer, namely “Connecting you to support”. The theme of World Alzheimer’s Month was diagnosis, shining a light on the warning signs of dementia and encouraging people to seek out information, advice and support, so this offer from the AHPs was spot on. It included a series of top tips, a practical and interactive workshop and sharing of ideas via social media. Everyone was invited to ask questions – “Ask an OT”, “Ask a dietitian”, “Ask a physio,” and so on for the other AHP groups. In the “Ask a SLT” section was an excellent new guide – Tips for Talking – which requests that we make time for conversations with people who have dementia and reminds us that “talking is not always in words”.
Many of us dream of escape, a bolt hole we can retreat to when the going gets tough and the stresses of modern life start to catch up with us. Ken Clasper, who lives with Lewy body dementia, seems to have found his shangri-la in a caravan on the outskirts of Barnard Castle, and a delightful idyll it sounds too. “It’s my own little bit of peace and quiet, somewhere where I can relax away from home, away from the stress,” Ken says. Nearby is a place that restores vintage cars – a lifelong interest – and the countryside around the town is an ideal location for him to revive his old enthusiasm for wildlife photography, although it is not always easy. “With this illness, it’s difficult at times to work out what is real and what is not actually there,” he says. “There are times when I could swear that I had seen something, but know it was not there, because the brain is playing horrible tricks on me.” Even so, the caravan feels like a safe haven, somewhere to be comfortable and relaxed “rather than being on edge at home”. On the other hand, it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in: “It will soon be time to close up the caravan for the winter months and I am not looking forward to that, but I guess all good things must come to an end.”
George Rook, who has dementia, tells his readers what life under covid has meant for him, “just walking and gardening and zooming, cooking and (let it be said) learning to carve and paint.” It appears to have been a busy time and George admits that he enjoyed it, as the delicately painted vase of flowers illustrating his blogpost would suggest. But for him as for so many of us, lockdown has also been a trial resulting in losses as well as gains: “Suddenly, triggered by something, I realised that I had become a ghost! I had disappeared. Nothing happened by which I could judge my sense of self-worth.” These losses concern identity, the validation and self-awareness that come from being in the company of others. George adds: “We have evolved to live in groups or communities, and to develop roles within those groups. Being outside all groups for long is intensely challenging to the sense of self. So while I have had it pretty good during covid, it has now caught up with me. Going to meet the Riversiders DEEP group yesterday for the first time in 18 months felt like a rebirth… I’m not ready to hang up my boxing gloves just yet, or to be a hermit. Nor to allow this brain disease to freeze me into oblivion.”