As we continue this “In my shoes” series, looking at dementia from different perspectives, some fascinating themes are emerging. Nobody chooses to have dementia, either for themselves or within their family. However, many people whose lives are affected by dementia are inspired to share their learning and experiences, to become campaigners and improve things for others. Beth Britton is one of them. Her Dad would be very proud of her….
A couple of months ago, a walk in my shoes would have focused on the daily trips to visit my father in either his care home or the local hospital. It would have been about fighting for his rights, making sure all his needs were met, and ultimately ensuring that he would have a peaceful and dignified end to his life.
My father was released from his long battle with dementia in the latter part of April 2012, closing one incredibly emotional and life-changing chapter but also opening many more. When dad was alive my sole focus was his needs, above everything else, including my own life. Now it is about changing the face of dementia in the UK, providing support and advice to those faced with similar situations to the ones we had with my dad, informing and educating the wider population, promoting debate, and campaigning for improvements in dementia care and changes to the health and social care systems in general.
An average day in my shoes now would primarily be about tackling stigma. My view is that if you deal, fully and publicly, with the fundamental issues around dementia – the fear, the misunderstanding, the almost naivety of some and the undoubted ‘bury your head in the sand’ attitude of the majority – you will have made a massive stride forward in confronting and defeating dementia.
My blog, D4Dementia, is about engaging people on a subject that so many seem to find immeasurably difficult to face up to. I post about many different aspects of dementia, often recalling personal accounts of my father’s journey with this disease, but I am equally interested in the bigger picture too – the huge issues around challenging dementia, making our communities dementia friendly, overhauling fragmented support systems that are failing the very people that they should be helping, and how, fundamentally, we must value every generation and every person, particularly focusing on those living with dementia and people of more advanced years generally.
The message is surely that you can do so much to prevent developing dementia, and should you develop it, you can live well with it, a diagnosis is not a death sentence, and that by working together as a country we can improve the quality of life for those living with dementia throughout the journey that they, and their loved ones, go on.
The UK should strive as one for a gold-standard dementia service, where those living with this disease feel valued, integrated, reassured and cared for. To truly put the ‘Great’ into Great Britain we should remember that compassion is the true mark of greatness.
If you would like to know more, please follow Beth on Twitter: @bethyb1886
Read Beth’s insightful D4Dementia blog, including a very brave, personal story published today.