On my lunch break on Monday I popped into Debenhams to have my eyebrows done by the nice girls on the Benefit counter. Now that I’m a fancy pants city worker I can do that sort of thing you see… my lunch hour becomes a lesson in restraint as I attempt to refrain from frequenting the Bullring and raiding Jack Wills’ latest collection. But yesterday my eyebrows got their much needed wax and tint so my face could be restored to its rightful beauty. Obvs. The girl who did the colour and the actual wax was a very efficient, tight lipped woman who told me, as she glugged back Powerade that, “Hydration is SO important” and asked me as I left, “are you happy?” with such vigour and intensity that I genuinely paused for a moment to assess my feelings on life before answering, regardless of the fact she only cared whether I was pleased with my newly instated arch. When she’d finished the treatmenty bit of the procedure, she handed me over to her apprentice and wannabe eyebrow connoisseur to have my face sufficiently cooled with tea tree and my make up touched up. The apprentice was super chatty, firing questions at me and interrupting me as I attempted to answer. She really hit her mark though when I mentioned that I used to work for Alzheimer’s Society. “Ah my Gran’s got that. I can’t remember if she’s got that one or dementia. Maybe she’s got both”. I bit my tongue and waited for the right moment to interject to explain that Alzheimer’s is just a form of dementia, but the moment never materialised as the girl kept talking, “we went on a course so we could understand it a bit better”, she said, explaining that at first her family had got snappy, annoyed with constantly having to repeat themselves and say that same thing over and over again. She went on to say that, having been on the course she knew that getting angry with someone who has dementia may only serve to worsen the situation, as they may become upset and confused, not knowing or understanding why someone is shouting at them, or what they’ve done wrong. This is genius. Brilliant. Inspiring.
This week is Dementia Awareness Week, I told her, the focus of which, is to spread news and awareness about dementia. Last year as a fully fledged member of Alzheimer’s Society staff I stood in hospitals handing out balloons, I held collection tins in supermarket foyers, and hopped on and off the Tesco Roadshow bus in a supermarket car park. This year, fully ensconced in a new role for a different organisation my role hasn’t been as strong; I’ve retweeted, and shared on Facebook, I’ve talked about it to friends and colleagues and the staff on the beauty counter, and now I’m writing this blog. Theses are things I urge you to do as well. I’m lucky enough that I’ve never been personally effected by dementia. None of my family has had the disease, for which I am thankful. But, I know through my work and my experience of talking to people that it effects a hell of a lot of people. 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 are likely to be effected by dementia. That’s quite a statistic. When I first got my job with Alzheimer’s Society i was inundated by those that I told, with stories of their experiences of dementia, some funny, some heartbreaking; all of them adding to my understanding of this disease that effects over 800 000 people in the UK. It effects so many people, its prevalence is terrifying, and so I implore you, and your community to actively educate yourselves in order to make the UK, and the rest of the world a better place for people with dementia to live.
Ask people what they know about dementia and they’ll tell you it’s about memory loss. This is true. Dementia comes along and like an earthquake rocks the shelves of memories that we have, with the most recent falling first, leaving our oldest memories, those from childhood and adolescence the longest. But it isn’t just memories that are effected by dementia. It’s cognitive ability, the way in which we process what we see, it’s the ability to sequence and to do things like tie shoelaces. Certain types of dementia effect our emotions, our personality, our inhabitions. There is an impossible amount to know, it’s impossible to get to grips with it all. Dementia Awareness Week just asks that you increase your understanding just a little bit. So we can live in a world that’s better for those living with Dementia.