• A language of flowers 18 January 2017 | View comments

  • We had 19 with us at Dementia Conversations this week, a lovely group of people from different places in the dementia journey. Ahead of it I had become occupied with the concept of Dementia Awareness week and its purpose. I have the week, beginning May 15th. Most of the links I find read as advertisements for the Alzheimer’s Society. It as if the only way in to learning about and caring about dementia is through their doors. Not to say that good works are not being done by the society, but its insistent ownership and requirement of corporate uniformity, does not fall comfortably with me.

    ‘Postcode Lottery’ is equated with ‘bad’ just as surely as ‘elderly’ maps to ‘burden’.

    There is variety in this life and we rejoice for it. I wish we could return to a model which sees local initiatives recognised, supported and celebrated. In some areas we hear of ‘turf war’ between the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK. These are two massive organisations are determined to do good but they risk images which are more concerned with their own size and importance than the significance and needs of people who have varying versions of frailty and impairment, set in differing spectra of personal and local strengths and weaknesses.

    The other thing about my searches for ‘Awareness week’ was the dominance of Forget Me Nots. As a symbol and emblem for an organisation involved with conditions characterised by memory disorder, this little flower has everything to commend it.

    Some years ago the Audit Commission wrote two excellent reports Forget me not and Forget me not 2. http://www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/forget-me-not-mental-health-services-for-older-people/r/a11G00000017zwzIAA

    There is a training organisation which uses the logo http://www.forgetmenotdementia.co.uk/

    Some hospitals label forgetful patients with Forget Me Not wrist bands www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20547386

    Roger Bullock was much involved with a day centre for younger people with dementia in Swindon http://www.awp.nhs.uk/media/518980/forget_me_not_centre_swindon.pdf

    So perhaps the ownership is not exclusive, but as a symbol drawing attention to dementia and the needs arising from it, this little flower carries a lot of additional baggage. I don’t think we can use it!

    This was generally the view at Conversations, but we may do somethings during Dementia Awareness week. This will almost certainly involve local churches, Methodist and others. It would be good to have a logo which would act as a shortcut, saying without words that this is something to do with dementia and similar difficulties.

    Daffodil means Marie Curie. 

    Purple crocus means End Polio Now. 

    Snowdrop is for Brain Injured Children. 

    Now I come to look at it, these emblems relate to charitable organisations and are not open pointers to the conditions they are interested, cancer, polio, brain injury. Perhaps I am asking for something which is beyond reality or reason.

    Maybe a sprig of Sage would fit the bill and be supported by several logos, including the Forget Me Not, to acknowledge the contributions of voluntary and statutory agencies.

    Mostly we recognise in our conversations that it is the individual, family, friends and other natural or chosen networks which sustain us in dementia. Can we conjure an icon for these?

    Checking on understanding, we were taken with the study from Ontario which reveals that living within 50metres of a busy main road increases the incidence of dementia. Then again we are not surprised and this confirms that prevention is a realistic, effective strategy but one which requires discipline at national and local community levels as well as by individuals.

    Tideglusib has had a short story as a possible treatment for Alzheimer ’s disease. A glycogen synthase kinase 3 inhibitor it showed promise in a pilot study with 30 patients reported 2013. The ARGO study involving 306 atients followed for 26 weeks demonstrated no clinical benefit 2015. It is accepted that 26 weeks may not be long enough to be sure. Meanwhile we learned from the newspapers and Nature, that Tideglusib may have power to reverse tooth decay http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39654. The study was in mice and relates to regeneration of teeth damaged by drilling rather than decay as such. Interesting, Encouraging but some way from the real world. This science requires a degree of unrestricted imagination

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