I’m swimming at my local pool. Just started got in. First length.
Stretch, relax, quieten, in the moment…
A new friend I met the other day is there too, and I stop at the shallow end to chat.
She’s talking to someone about a dementia friends session she did at the cricket club. And what she’s doing around the town to promote the cause.
And I say hello and try to join the conversation.
But I’m not there. I’m not zoned in.
I can’t find the answers. The subject. The knowledge.
I start the simple stuff, the how are you, yes I’m fine, stuff.
They’re talking about how you access the right people in the town…
Not to take on too much…
How people living with dementia aren’t seen in the town much unless they’re with someone.
And I just can’t get to what I could say. I’m blank.
Can’t find the path to the dementia stuff and opinions and thoughts and knowledge that is lying somewhere inside.
It’s there, I know.
I stand in the shallows muttering something trite.
What should I be saying to this person who doesn’t get why you don’t see people with dementia walking around town on their own, independent?
And gradually I search and find the route, like a satnav downloading its map data, and mapping a route to a chosen destination.
What shall I say? What shall I say?
What’s the right response?
Where is it?
…Everyone is different…
…Not everyone with dementia is at the difficult end of the journey.
…They can live on their own, go into town on their own…
Yup, that’s better…
And suddenly it’s ok.
…so we need to make it easier for them to visit the shops, use a bus, see their friends.
At which point I have a very clear route in to where I wanted to go.
It takes time to work out ways into what you’re searching for.
Doing (quick) crosswords I run through the alphabet if I’m stuck, trying as many alternatives for each letter in order, till one clicks into place.
Or I cheat by googling.
Same when I’m searching for names. When I’m writing emails I work through the alphabet until it just clicks. And usually it does. Might take a couple of minutes.
It’s a workaround.
If I’m looking for something at home I have learned to stop, go away, return, and methodically, slowly, go one by one through the items in front of me until the right one turns up.
Look at each one, name it, even touch it, move it…
If it’s still not there after three searches I reckon it isn’t there.
It’s a work around.
I’ve heard several people talk about finding workarounds to manage their dementia symptoms and difficulties.
Of course, you have to be aware of your dementia in order to know that you need a work around.
You have to know that you can’t rely on your brain any longer to work in a flash.
In less time than it takes to turn your head. Or glance around.
We should share our workarounds.
Then we’d be using them before we were lost, instead of getting out the clunky satnav or just giving up.
Agnes asks for photos of places she’s visiting in advance, so she will recognise when she gets there.
I write down all the names of people at meetings in sequence around the table. And where they’re from or what they do if I’ve got time.
And I always write and practice what I’m going to say, or might have the opportunity to say, before I get there. Days before usually.
Busking is for those with whole brains.
If I don’t prepare I just get stuck and miss the opportunity to pull together what I know to be true and want to say.
If I don’t prepare, get into the zone, plan the route, I am lost in a map that has no towns marked and where roads lead nowhere.
To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.