A DEEP Christmas Table

I’m searching my brain.

Listening to a Bach cantata, lying in the sun, Lupin curled up at my side.

Outside it’s cold. Icy. Dusted with frosty crystals.

Robins, sparrows, finches…dancing and flirting around stiff stems,

Searching for seed and debris,

A spider, an aphid, cold but nutritious.

Distant lines of highlight cloud with a white gold sun glowing through.

The sky is faintly cerulean, greying overhead as a snowy front moves nearer.

Leaves have been gorgeous golden sienna for days now.

They’ll soon drop from their sleeping branches,

Revealing next year’s buds, already swelling.

Acorns uneaten twist a yellowy root out to worm into the ground.

In spring they will start stems reaching upwards, a couple of cotyledon leaves

Spreading to catch sunlight to synthesise a future great oak.

And so the world revolves, ever darker and brighter, on its infinite journey.

….

Bach wrote perfectly mathematical beauty in his music.

Passion, cruelty, pain and sublime harmony.

Mahler’s romantic giant leaps of emotion, and depths of despair,

Can soften the hardest concrete minds, leading them into

Switchbacks of feelings, lifted souls, and huge compassion.

….

Our worlds are contradictions.

Often cruel, more often compassionate.

Show me a person who does not suffer.

Yes, we do all suffer…pain, loss, loneliness, empty days of despair.

It seems, it feels, unending misery.

Hours of darkness, following one on another,

Drearily suffocating us as we wait for light.

And light will come.

Believe me.

Light is around the corner.

Our world continues to turn.

Buds emerge, breaking open their wraps, greening, growing.

Flowers, tiny flags of colourful joy, will open.

Trees will green and shelter you.

….

I am searching my brain.

I’m looking for a way of to describe my family.

And the infinite depth of joy and love I feel for my beautiful family.

Our loving, trusting, compassionate parents who keep us together are, well,

Like those trees that just exist and provide comfort and shelter.

We are the extended family members who love each other, the flowers that

Reliably reappear after cold, dark times,

Warmed by this endless well of love that surrounds us all.

We are DEEP.

We are our own universe, an ecosystem that symbiotically supports all of us.

Thousands of us form this hugely simple mathematical system of spheres that just continue to revolve.

We each fit in seamlessly, gently moving around each other.

Galileo was thrown out for discovering a scientific system without God or our Earth at its centre.

We’ve created another new solar system, our Milky Way.

All you need is love, sang the Beatles.

And all we need is DEEP.

Our family.

….

Yesterday, at the end of a week of celebrations of our family’s ten years,

I struggled to describe just exactly what I felt.

Now I know.

It was our family Christmas Day.

We were all, thousands of us, sitting at the same table.

Celebrating our closeness, thanking each other, just for being here,

Loving our parents for bringing us up, loving us, making our lives blessed.

We are the closest, most loving family anyone could ever hope to have.

We are here for each other.

We are warmth, smiles, hope, the future.

We’ve got you, whoever you are.

We are DEEP.

On grief

A wonderful and moving piece from Shibs.

Dr Shibley Rahman blog

This was the post I never expected to write, ever.

When I was born,  I thought my mum would live forever. Even while caring for me with her dementia, I thought she would live forever.

During her dementia, I knew I was losing her.  Every day brought me to a new place.  Destiny would lull me into a false sense of security on a good day. When night fell, and I had to call an ambulance at 2 am, I knew I was beaten

I wanted Hasna to live forever. I remember queuing behind her as she collected my child benefit. I remember walking with her as I pushed her trolley in Tescos. I remember sitting behind her as she drove me home from school. I remember her happiness when I got into Cambridge, and when I later passed my MRCP.

Before this all started, she used to wake up…

View original post 255 more words

Smile

Dementia Congress 2022

Back together again.

Last time was Doncaster, with huge floods. This year, Birmingham.

And what a fantastic day it was. Hugging and holding, the full 10 seconds. So many fabulous people.

After nearly three years of distant isolation I think I convinced myself I no longer needed to meet people. Virtual was all we had for so long; tiny boxes that flicked around a screen, and internet outage interruptions. But it has been great to get to know people in depth and to become really genuine friends.

The best friends I have, my DEEP friends.

So when we met over dinner I suddenly surprised myself with gushingness. I couldn’t stop talking, joking, ribbing. A dark, dense, damp cloud had lifted. We just went on and on and on.

At the event it felt like sparkling, breathless, jumping joy. Everywhere I turned…another face with a huge welcoming smile. Another long hug.

(I’m not grumpy 71 really, just jumpy 21.)

It did not stop all day.

So thank you from my heart, you who organised Congress this year. I know you’ve had difficulties, but this…this was just fabulous.

Small and beautiful. Smaller and beautifuller. And better for that.

There wasn’t the feeling of being overwhelmed by noise and people and too many choices.

There were fewer people living with dementia (in both senses), but a much higher proportion of professionals. And that is good, because they/you are the people we need to make change happen.

There is little more rewarding than people asking ‘how ever did you manage to do that?’

Or ‘What you said has inspired me to keep on trying…’

Or just ‘Thank you so much’.

Smiles. Smiles. Smiles make our world go round.

Just smile, is what I often say to professionals. Just smile.

It puts us at ease. Oils our cogs. Relaxes our brains. Allows focussed thought.

And that is my big big takeaway. I saw so many smiles. Smiles all round. Big genuine guffaw smiles.

We were with friends. Trust…warmth…understanding…eagerness to hear.

And I smiled and smiled and smiled…

So thank you, everyone. You inspire me to keep on blogging, influencing, filming, challenging, and…

Smiling.

Leadership – It can be done

Something different today, but entirely relevant.

I read stuff about healthcare. I read Roy Lilley’s excellent pieces about leadership in the NHS. I read stuff on Twitter (though for how long, thanks to Musky). I find articles in journals. And I speak to people who work around the NHS and healthcare. Usually about dementia matters.

But today I am struck…in the face, full frontal…by the question…why the hell do we have so many provider organisations that are dysfunctional?

As Roy Lilley writes frequently, people don’t go into work intending to do a bad job. Or to disrupt a meeting. Or to be rude to everyone they meet.

Whether you are a doctor, nurse, OT, secretary, director, coder…whatever…you want to do the best you can.

You get ground down by things that don’t work. By people not doing what they promised. By fatigue and targets.

And then it seems that an organisation just disintegrates and rots in its putrid mess of rottenness.

I believe there are always people who, perhaps by chance, perhaps by upbringing, perhaps by intelligence, remain able to see the horizon. They are the people who keep others moving in the right direction. Who relentlessly come back for more, just certain that their vision is the right vision.

These people are at every level, in every job. They are the ones who keep teams together, just with a comment here, a suggestion there, a ‘how can I help?’ and a ‘good job’.

They are the people who know instinctively – perhaps through insight or through learning – that something can be done better…for the patient, for the staff, for the organisation.

They may have little hierarchical ‘authority’. They just play out their passion and their empathy.

People follow them. People are inspired by them. And people give more of their own humanity and strength to follow them.

Leaders.

So why the hell have we got so many dysfunctional healthcare provider organisations?

The work I do to improve dementia diagnosis and care sits within a system that is, erm, pretty dysfunctional. We get on with it, our steering group of 30 or so committed, passionate people from different disciplines, and some who use the services.

We know that we are in a vacuum. We know that we are flying under the radar so that we can get things done. (Oh how that phrase has been utterly devalued recently.)

And we just want those higher up the hierarchy to enable us to get on with it. Not block us.

We can do it ourselves. Because we have the passion and determination and vision.

It is a crying shame, and I mean: crying… No, actually it’s a crime…that so many people in positions of control are not able to use that control wisely.

Personal vendettas, envy, rudeness, prejudice, bitterness, you name it…these lead to behaviours that wreck organisations.

We’ve gone wrong fundamentally somewhere. Perhaps in upbringing, perhaps in education.

Perhaps just human fallibility.

We need to find ways to stop early subtle changes developing into intractable lifelong habits.

So we need leaders (at all levels) who notice, and who guide others away from negative behaviours. Who channel people’s energy into productive, positive behaviours.

And we need to start afresh to refresh the blockers in our organisations. Send them on sabbaticals. Encourage them into doing things they really want to, that will make them happy again. Give them big re-training grants.

Or, at worst, yes, sack them if they refuse to change.

Until we take a new positive, creative approach to people we will continue in our down-spiral of decaying organisations.

And, by the way, there are some that are fantastic because they have the right people with the right behaviours.

It can be done.

It was just a dream…

A startling clarity. Glistening highlights on dew drops. Intense deep pure colours.

I got out of bed to absorb the beauty, staring, breathing it in, deep in my lungs.

I rang my friend Nick, my dementia navigator. Could he arrange for me to see the GP this morning? Or perhaps a phone call? I have this niggling cough…been going on for three weeks.

OK, he says. I’ll get back to you. Everything else ok? Got your weekly pills? Any change in symptoms?

Nope. All much the same, though I did slip in the shower. Not the first time…

Mention it to the GP.

Cheers Nick.

I get dressed, make a pot of tea. Outside the garden is calling me…

Mid morning my phone vibrates. S**t, forgot to turn on volume.

Is that George? It’s Dr Val. How are you? Nick asked me to call you.

Oh thanks. I’ve got this niggly cough. Three weeks.

OK. And Nick said you slipped again in the shower?

Mmm. Happens more often now…

I think you’d better come in and see me. And we’ll make it a double appointment. We could talk about your plans for if your symptoms get worse too.

Thanks, Val.

Tomorrow morning, say 11.45?

Sure. Thanks.

And I return to my gloriously shimmeringly beautiful day with flowers and birds and Lupin.

….

When I taught English I really laboured my hatred if stories that ended…then I woke up.

Kids just could not allow themselves to just stop. End. Finish.

You don’t need to bracket your story as unreal! Delete the last bit.

….

And yet…

My little dreamworld excursion is just that…a dream.

Perhaps not for long?

We plwds often complain about difficulty accessing a GP, working through the phone or online systems. Some cannot fathom the repetitive, often seemingly pointless sections, even finding that dementia isn’t even listed as a possible reason for contact.

On the phone we get long messages about life threatening illness, apologies for waiting times, don’t you dare be rude to our poor staff…

Mr Rook, you need to use the online system.

No. I’ve tried that and it told me to contact you.

Oh. So what are your symptoms?

…ooh, yes…that happens to me sometimes…have you tried…?

(That bit did happen, btw)

So back to my slightly virtual reality, in dreamland…

If we (living with dementia AND/OR caregivers) each had a specialist (ie trained) navigator or companion through our post diagnosis journeys they could be how we access our local health care.

General Practice is reluctant to make special arrangements for specific groups, it seems. (In contravention of the Equalities Act, but let’s be practical.)

So perhaps we need to use alternative routes. I hope that in Shropshire our new Dementia Navigators and Dementia Community Link Workers will be able to provide our route.

And our new Admiral Nurse service will provide the expertise for our health and care professionals.

I’ll keep dreaming, and hoping…

Are we worth compassion (and accuracy)?

To scan or not to scan?

Whether it is better to face the slings and arrows of diagnosis without a piccy,

Or trust blindly those who assess from a screen (blindly)?

Can a brain scan tell a specialist whether you have dementia?

Not on its own.

Can a scan say which type if dementia? (of over 200 types)

Not on its own.

Can a virtual screen assessment provide sufficient information for a trustworthy diagnosis?

No.

Can a mere phone call assessment be considered sufficient? Ever?

No.

Covid probably necessitated virtual assessment, but we are getting used to living (and dying?) with it. Cases still swing up and down, but Covid must no longer be an excuse or reason for avoiding face to face assessment (and diagnosis giving).

I know two people assessed and given a diagnosis virtually last year. From a screen. Using webinar software they were unfamiliar with. Not asked about their hearing or screen reading ability.

Not seen walking, sitting, getting up.

Not asked about hallucinations.

One not scanned.

How can you diagnose if you don’t follow these basic and simple steps? If you don’t spend any time chatting and getting to know a person.

You’ll miss non verbal behaviours.

You’ll miss a halting, frail gait.

You’ll miss hallucinations.

And you will not get accurate, reliable results from your assessment.

Ok. Of course some assessors will do these things right, but I know that some don’t, and my experience tells me that that’s going to be at least half.

That which one patient experiences you can guarantee plenty of others do too.

By the way, one of my friends had their diagnosis changed by a doctor in the falls team, from mixed to Lewy Body dementia. And he’d had a scan too. The original assessor had not met him.

The other person has been fighting to get a scan and re-assessment for a year. You can imagine how difficult life is if you seriously doubt the diagnosis but get no support to challenge it. Luckily our DEEP group provides that support.

….

Do we have a Dementia Plan from the government? Not yet. Delayed for many months/years while politicians wriggle around in their mud.

Do we have a mandatory pathway for post diagnosis? No.

Do we have national protocols for scanning, or post diagnosis support?

Is Cognitive Skills Training (CST) offered to all newly diagnosed? Nope. Some assessment services offer none at all. Some offer it to almost all.

Does CST work? Research suggests it is the peer group factor that matters most, not the cognitive ‘stimulation’. I can believe that, and many attending CST continue to meet as peer groups.

….

I have a problem with some working in memory (dementia assessment) services. They seem to put their own convenience or perceived safety before the need of patients to be properly and professionally assessed.

Is it because there is no cure, so, well, what’s the point of going extra miles? Let’s just do the straightforward (?) tests and give a diagnosis. ‘It’s all we can do’.

Is it because staff fear for their health and safety, visiting a person? Well take a second person!

YOU WOULDN’T DIAGNOSE CANCER WITHOUT MEETING THEM!

Are we less important? Less deserving of compassionate care? Do they think they need not bother with us?

In actual fact, you can destroy a person with the wrong diagnosis.

You can destroy a person by giving a terminal diagnosis without compassion.

So for goodness’ sake…GET IT RIGHT.

A Black Dog

A black dog

Today the black dog has returned home.

Sloped in. Lay on my lap. Or perhaps on my head.

It may stay for a day, or perhaps several days.

You never know.

Is my black dog related to my brain disease?

Well, something is turning switches off…more frequently recently.

Triggers may be conscious or not. I don’t know.

‘You don’t look as if you have dementia.’

‘You don’t talk like you’ve got dementia.’

JC. How many times?

You can talk…you can’t have dementia!

You are here today…you can’t have much wrong with you!

It drives us mad, because we try very hard to show our best selves in public.

A black dog

Today the black dog has returned home.

Sloped in. Lay on my lap. Or perhaps on my head.

It may turn out to be short lived, or all day, or several days.

You never know.

Is my black dog related to my brain disease?

Well, something is turning switches off…more frequently recently.

Triggers may be conscious or not. I don’t know.

‘You don’t look as if you have dementia.’

‘You don’t talk like you’ve got dementia.’

JC. How many times?

You can talk…you can’t have dementia!

You are here today…you can’t have much wrong with you!

It drives us mad, because we try very hard to show our best selves in public.

And do the recovery fatigue at home. In bed. Sitting quietly.

And at yesterday’s Riversiders DEEP meeting we talked about this. One member was visible down, and went further during the morning. So we spoke about it.

It’s good to talk! That must be one of the big reasons why DEEP groups are so valuable.

To talk to people who understand, who get it.

It’s also good to talk to people who control their ego!

Just listen, actively, with emotional intelligence.

PLEASE.

Don’t say…I get that all the time.

Don’t say…cheer up, it’ll pass.

Don’t say…it’s quite normal to feel fed up…’

Do…listen.

Do…Use your face, hands, arms and posture to show you are listening.

Do…repeat back, in your own words what they say, gently…to check understanding.

Do…ask questions – again, gently – that can help trigger recovery, like what do you really enjoy doing? What did you do last time this happened? What do you think triggered this?

….

A possible trigger is hearing about the sometimes horrid experiences of others, either caregivers or plwds. Yesterday that happened. This morning that happened. This morning I have black dog.

Night follows day.

On ZOOM a few of us have talked recently about how we deal with the knowledge of what is likely to happen later on. One person said, well, I’ve had a good life…just got to get on with whatever happens.

But I, and many others, deliberately don’t think about the future. We live day by day. And its only when we are reminded of possibilities (probabilities?) that we slump down into nether hell.

Till last week I thought I could handle heating the often dreadful experiences of others. Now I’m not so sure. And that may have an impact on how I facilitate our DEEP group. I don’t know yet.

But I’ll tell you what…

Without DEEP, and the associated activity that Innovations in Dementia have brought to us, life for a lot of us would be hell. Living hell.

The friendship and support that we give each other are the best, and often the only, medicine that works. Or is available.

Thank you for all that, Innovations in Dementia.

And do the recovery fatigue at home. In bed. Sitting quietly.

And at yesterday’s Riversiders DEEP meeting we talked about this. One member was visible down, and went further during the morning. So we spoke about it.

It’s good to talk! That must be one of the big reasons why DEEP groups are so valuable.

To talk to people who understand, who get it.

It’s also good to talk to people who control their ego!

Just listen, actively, with emotional intelligence.

PLEASE.

Don’t say…I get that all the time.

Don’t say…cheer up, it’ll pass.

Don’t say…it’s quite normal to feel fed up…’

Do…listen.

Do…Use your face, hands, arms and posture to show you are listening.

Do…repeat back, in your own words what they say, gently…to check understanding.

Do…ask questions – again, gently – that can help trigger recovery, like what do you really enjoy doing? What did you do last time this happened? What do you think triggered this?

….

A possible trigger is hearing about the sometimes horrid experiences of others, either caregivers or plwds. Yesterday that happened. This morning that happened. This morning I have black dog.

Night follows day.

On ZOOM a few of us have talked recently about how we deal with the knowledge of what is likely to happen later on. One person said, well, I’ve had a good life…just got to get on with whatever happens.

But I, and many others, deliberately don’t think about the future. We live day by day. And its only when we are reminded of possibilities (probabilities?) that we slump down into nether hell.

Till last week I thought I could handle heating the often dreadful experiences of others. Now I’m not so sure. And that may have an impact on how I facilitate our DEEP group. I don’t know yet.

But I’ll tell you what…

Without DEEP, and the associated activity that Innovations in Dementia have brought to us, life for a lot of us would be hell. Living hell.

The friendship and support that we give each other are the best, and often the only, medicine that works. Or is available.

Thank you for all that, Innovations in Dementia.

Future Proofing

Future Proofing

Where are we going?

What’s going to happen?

The future is blank. But what we do know is that the brain disease we people living with dementia have will only go one way.

And if you’re like me you choose to live today and not think much about next year(s).

Our DEEP Riversiders group just had our weekly zoom, and as ever we talked about all sorts.

How a family kept warm in the 60s, burning whatever wood the kids could scrounge.

How hard it has been for a caregiver daughter to get support when she just cannot go on looking after her mum with dementia.

Where we should meet for our monthly face to face sessions.

And that is what has led me to this blog.

Wonderful Harry. Harry has a sense of humour and fun that keeps us entertained, week after week.

We have been offered free use of a room at a new residential care ‘facility’ which is opening in Shrewsbury in December. And I have to declare that the organisation gave us a good sized cheque to support our DEEP groups. Their community contribution. (Thank you, Care UK.)

Some of use are working with this organisation to help them recruit staff, and generally to get the facility just right. Wonderful…and again thank you.

So…should we meet in their brand new building?

Well, I suggested that we might not want to meet where we might end up! It might be upsetting to contemplate that which we try not think about too often.

But then Harry, thoughtfully, said that perhaps it would actually be good and reassuring to see a new and welcoming, purpose designed facility. After all, many of us probably swear we don’t ever want to end our lives in a care home. But we may not know what a good modern care home could be like.

And I was also reminded of an email I received yesterday announcing that our Shropshire Ageing No Discrimination (SAND) organisation is holding an information half day in October aimed at helping LGBTQ+ people to plan their older future lives. What to do, what is available, how to find out, etc…Future Proofing.

See below for the details.

We should all be thinking about how we want our lives to be when something happens, whether expected or not. It’s called future care planning, I guess.

And it’s something that should happen during or as a result of our (non-existent) annual dementia reviews!

So perhaps it would be good to meet in several facilities over a period. See what’s out there. And find out how to book in, so to speak.

The cost, of course, is a huge issue. But if we don’t make an effort to think about it we may find ourselves dumped somewhere suddenly.

So Harry is right, I think.

I must mention another fab retirement home care apartments facility that I visit in Oswestry. It is one of a number of new builds which provide flats within a purpose designed community, including restaurant, shared lounges, gardens and activities. I started a DEEP group there last year, and I saw a place I would happily move into if circumstances required it. (Wrekin Housing…no financial connection to me.)

What I am saying is…there are good places out there which you may not know about. And you may not have planned for your future. But it’s probably something that we all really should do.

Heads buried in the sand are not all that useful in the long term.

Getting to speak to a GP…

Help Help Help (please)

Clunk, repeat, clunk, repeat in a different way, clunk, choose from this list, clunk, my condition’s not there, clunk, the list is confusing, clunk, give up…shout…swear…

OMG Not another blog!

Well, yes, sorree…

I have a mission this time.

Do you know of any examples of General Practice making alternative, easy to use, arrangements for people with dementia, or any cognitive impairment, to get access to a GP?

Last year I tried this with my local practice. I got a meeting with a partner and the practice manager…quite an achievement, I guess.

I ran this past them. The e-referral forms on EMIS (the practice booking and records system, used by a lot of practices) is mind deadeningly repetitive and difficult to use. Perhaps it is ok if you don’t have cognitive impairment, but it certainly drives me bonkers, and many just could not use it.

The phone system? First a long message about if it’s a life threatening emergency, then all our staff are busy, then be nice to our staff, then use the e-referral form…then, oh just wait for 15 minutes, so you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say…

Could the practice develop an easy access system for selected patients with particular difficulties? Perhaps we should simply say patients with a disability.

Oh but most of the feedback we get is positive. People say they like the e-referral form.

I don’t remember being asked!

And they can always use the phone…

Um, no, because after 15 minutes you are told to use the e-referral form, and most patients will have given up the desire to live by then and will not feel able to say they cannot do that.

So, why not find a solution?

Ah, we can’t do something for one group and not for the others.

Oh bloody hell! Ever heard of the Equalities Act? Reasonable adjustment? Disability?

(Which I did not say, because I didn’t think fast enough at the time.)

So, moving on, here in Shropshire we are looking for examples of practices which have made a possibly quite simple adjustment to enable easy access for selected patients.

I mean, I think we could come up with solutions on our own, but GPs will like it better if we show that it’s been done elsewhere already, and the world did not end.

EVIDENCE

So people of the dementia world…lend me your ears…please please let me know if you know of any examples.

I already know one, from a friend elsewhere, whose GP allows her to email them because she can’t use the phone any more.

This is what I’m talking about!

Nothing fancy. Just simple.

I might add that I am not intrinsically against using e-referral forms. But they must be simple. And some are. But not the emis version.

Clunk, repeat, clunk, repeat in a different way, clunk, choose from this list, clunk, my condition’s not there, clunk, the list is confusing, clunk, give up…shout…swear…

Whoever designed this form should be shot at dawn. It takes no account of reading or cognitive difficulties, and assumes one form fits all. So it tries to do too much, taking you down so many alleyways that you get lost, repeat what you have just written, and then often find it tells you…

‘You need to contact your practice’

…which is a total kick in the teeth after all that palaver.

So come on y’all. Please please spread the word. We need solutions.

You can add your ideas or examples below in the comments, or respond to me directly.

Thank you all for helping.

And this is for any GPs who read this.

Thank you.

Wokey cokey

Should I enter the shark infested waters of wokeism?

Or wokism? unsure.

The question is, or might be, what role does language play in perpetuating prejudice?

A recent example is use of ‘chairman’ in relation to a dementia organisation, the chair of which is, indeed, male.

I subscribe to the hidden, unconscious prejudice school of thought.

Anyone who proclaims ‘they are not racist, but…’ is demonstrating that they are. Because they are acknowledging that they feel they need to make a comment about race, or gender, or whatever.

In a community where people did not think about differences between people stemming from their colour, race, beliefs or sexuality there would be no need to say anything, because the issue would not be understood. There would be no language of prejudice. There might be a different basis for prejudice, such as those who could or could not read, or shoot, or sing, short or tall…

Prejudice grows from fear. Fear that someone might take something from you. Fear that your position might be undermined.

Nazi Germany. Northern Ireland. The southern states of the USA. Directorships in FTSE 100 companies. Parliament.

It’s everywhere.

Threats are usually imagined, but may be real and based on historic unfairness and persecution.

We adopt ways of undermining those who threaten us. Laws that prevent black people from using the same school bus as whites. Language to describe threatening people as inferior, cruel, tainted, or disgusting.

They say that Greenlanders have around 50 words for snow. Because it is such a huge thing in their lives. It matters, in terms of survival.

And some ethnic communities do not have a word for dementia, because they do not acknowledge it exists. They sometimes regard it as a form of madness, rather than illness, or even witchcraftery.

Words are used to communicate, but also to define…where we are in the hierarchy, where you are, and to reinforce the differences.

Back, then, to chairman.

It’s such an insignificant word that we might wonder whether it matters? Indeed, politicians of a certain hue are playing on such ‘woke’ matters to create and reinforce their power base and hierarchy.

Chairman implies that a chair of a group should be a man. It’s ever so insignificant, but ever so important. Women have been subtly, unconsciously made to feel that they should not be the chair…for years, decades, centuries.

I may not lean toward some of what I would regard as extremes in woke language, and I admit that the (him/they/she/her/it) postscript on emails makes me uncomfortable. But I readily admit that is because I have baked in bias and it makes me uncomfortable to have my 71 years of conventions challenged.

If I were on the other side of this fence I would think very differently. If, for example, I were queer, like a good friend of mine, I would have been living in constant fear of abusive and harmful prejudice. My life would have been fearful.

Why do LGBTQ+ people, and people of colour, or belief, or origin, tend to live among their own? Surely out of fear. Fear of persecution. Fear of harassment. Fear of attack.

Why do we humans do this? I’m sure it is survivalist, the oldest archetypal behaviour we have…we must survive. And that means eradicating threats.

One person’s threat, is another person’s friend. Surely because of the unconscious fear that the one has.

Coming to dementia…when a person gradually returns in their mind (and diseased brain) to memories of their younger life, they may also lose the ability to keep their safety defence mechanisms in place. A queer man may forget to keep his secret in his hetero community. This does happen. Especially in residential care. He may then be, and often is, subjected to abuse…quite probably from others who have lost inhibitions and returned to a firmer time’s attitudes.

We need to address these situations so that everyone feels safe.

And we need to address the unconscious bias and prejudice that are in our culture and language.

Any organisations that continue to use chairman really should know better by now. Assuming they care or have thought about prejudice at all. And if they haven’t they should have.

Wokeism is a pejorative term now, but this just reflects resistance to change. And resistance to seeing the humanity in each of us.

(Please don’t pick me up on humanity…or humanist…humanism…which I subscribe to. I feel I might be hoisted on my own petard!)

Another writer once wrote ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. Well, I believe the small stuff matters. And if we make the conscious effort to change the little things (indicators) in our bias we may start to address the less visible things, that unconscious prejudice which we all have, until we shake it away.

Here endeth…