• Talking about walking 25 July 2016 | View comments

  • 17th July 2016 | By David Jolley


    The thing about meetings of our Conversations group is that one thing leads to another...


    In our opening discussions this week we found ourselves talking about journeys and their relevance to the difficulties encountered when people have memory problems - as in dementia and related disorders. We reflected on trams and trains – which sometimes don’t work and where there are losses of service because of repair works. There is need for help and guidance from others, when we don’t know a new system. Sometimes this is from professionals (men in orange vests).


    Buses offer more flexibility – but for many of us are a world of mystery. Again there are experts amongst us – we might learn from them. There are maps and time-tables but for many of us a human interpreter is necessary to make best use of them.


    People remembered getting about in WW2 with the Black Out. Often there was no transport and people walked miles to get to work or get home.


    Cars offer so much more immediacy and flexibility – but they may break down. Fast roads and lack of signs leave people bewildered. There is the story of the couple heading for Scotland but who spent the day going round and round the M25.


    We heard about the hazards of being in a strange place – R who disappeared during a hike in the Lake District and E who was lost in an airport. So these are times and places to take special care.


    We reflected that there are devices these days – iphones and others which can be helpful – and there are some devices specially designed to be used by people who cannot cope with complexity. People have discovered safe hands and safe places – a homecare service, a carers’ group, a local hospital which uses Memory Boxes.


    W had very good support made available to her when her dementia was identified in another town has not been replicated since moving elsewhere. In our previous session L and D had described in detail the limitations of services in their new setting. J and B described their disappointment and sadness that changes in services have left them without the good support they had previously enjoyed. J described a complex matrix of support from family, friends and services – some of the latter comes only because of involvement with a research project.


    I would say that most support will always rely on family and friends and the long-term health care input requires active interest and commitment by GPs and the Primary Health Care teams – the specialist Memory Services and Old Age Psychiatry Services are not funded to carry this work directly.


    Journeys are often given as metaphor for the progress of individual lives and in this discussion the metaphor and the reality of living with dementia came repeatedly mixed – mutually supportive and illustrative. There are virtual reality apps which may help us know more of what life with dementia is like www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36433868 but it seems to me that we can and do experience this in real life when we are out of our comfort zones, aroused with anxiety when there is any pressure of time, and when what was predicted does not work out.


    Important to see how safe reference points and kindly people can make things so much less terrifying.


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