Saturday 21 September 2013

Reaching for the stars

It seems very appropriate that today, on World Alzheimer’s Day and Dementia Awareness Day (DAD), I’m doing a Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s Society, hoping that memories of my dad will give me lots of inspiration and strength for the 10km. Sometimes the symmetry of life is simple and yet so very clever.

The walk will have a two-fold benefit in A) getting me a bit fitter (exercise being good to prevent dementia and a host of other diseases), and B) raising money that I hope will go into funding vitally needed local services to support people to live well with dementia in their communities. It will, of course, also help to raise awareness of dementia, but for me that is where Dementia Awareness Day really comes into its own.

The blog I wrote for last year’s Dementia Awareness Day – ‘So how much do you know about dementia’ – remains to date one of the most popular blogs I’ve ever written. It explodes myths, busts stigma and re-enforces the messages that are most likely to help people to live well with dementia, and indeed create more dementia friendly communities for them to live in.

All of the work I do is about using my personal experiences to inform and educate, support and empower. Looking over my blog, I honestly wish I’d had this resource when my dad was first diagnosed (and indeed before that point), so I hope it helps to fill that gap for families who are living with dementia today.

Being an ‘Expert by Experience’ is an honour. However hard my dad’s dementia was at times, it was a privilege to be entrusted with caring and loving him when he was at his most vulnerable. To be that close to someone who had given me so much (life no less!) is special in a way that words really cannot accurately do justice to. You really had to have been there.

If there is one thing I wish I could give every person, it’s the uniquely special nature of those moments without the pain that dementia causes. I wouldn’t wish dementia on anyone, but I would wish for everyone to be able to learn the life-lessons that I did. If I could bottle that, I’m sure the world would be a better place.

In many ways I’m an idealist, a person who sees good before bad, hope before despair, and who tries to make the best of every situation. I care so passionately about looking after humanity, and making the lives of our most vulnerable people the best that they can possibly be. I want to inspire everyone to love our older generations, and to make living with dementia – at any age – about living and not just dying.

Sometimes I want to reach for the stars, then I remember that I’m only 4’6”! But days like today are a reminder that we can always push ourselves harder (my 10km), that raising awareness of dementia with just one more person is an achievable aim for everyone (DAD), and that the love of those who are such a focal point in our lives never dies. Somewhere up in the stars my dad’s watching, and with his help who knows what is possible.

Until next time...

Beth x

You can follow me on Twitter: @bethyb1886

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