In her second blog instalment, Dianne Wilkinson, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 56, shares a few recent achievements and explains why it’s so important to stay positive
When you read this I’ll probably be lying on a beach in Turkey or swimming in a pool. I’m not saying this to make you feel jealous (well, maybe just a little!) but to show how people with dementia still have the capacity to enjoy normal things in life, like going on holiday. Of course I’m not pretending everything is exactly the same as it was before; I know I couldn’t manage a holiday abroad on my own and I’m very lucky to have a family who are happy to come along and support me. But I also know how easy it is to focus on the things you can’t do anymore when you have dementia…instead of what you can.
If my dementia journey has taught me anything so far it’s that you have to make the most of what you’ve got right now. So I’m making a conscious effort to accentuate the positive!
Here’s a few things I’ve done this month which I’m pleased about:
Started a journal
I still lead a busy life but if someone says, ‘what did you do yesterday Dianne?’ I often haven’t got a clue, so I’ve decided to start writing everything down every day. It’s a great way to keep hold of the memories I know I would otherwise forget.
Attended a wedding
It was lovely to receive an invitation to a wedding but I have to admit I was quite worried, especially since I only knew a handful of people (including my daughter Angela and her partner Mark) who were attending. I felt anxious that I might say something silly because I’ve been told I do this without realising, and when people tell me I feel terrible. But I decided to face the fear and accept the invitation. It was good to get dressed up and go somewhere new. I socialised without Angela, met some very nice people, and although I couldn’t remember any of their names it didn’t seem to matter. I had a good dance with the groom’s mum too! And it all went in my journal, along with the photos.
Dianne at the wedding
Made a family meal
Not being able to make a meal anymore has really bugged me, so this month I decided to try again and make a meal for my son John. I kept it simple; I bought salmon steaks and the fishmonger put them in a roasting bag for me with lemon and butter so all I had to do was pop them in the oven. I also cooked prawns, new potatoes and made a salad. I used my oven timer and also wrote down the time I put everything in the oven. It was a success! The prawns were a bit overcooked but I didn’t burn anything and John told everyone I’d cooked him a lovely meal. It might sound silly, but I was really pleased with myself.
Walked 10,000 steps a day
I like exercise and used to swim a lot but these days I find it difficult to remember all the opening times for the local pool, so I decided to start walking instead because it’s easy and good exercise. I’m using a pedometer to make sure I walk at least 10,000 steps a day, often with my daughter. We live near the sea so we can walk along the beach which makes it really pleasurable, especially when we head for somewhere worth walking to…like a nice café! I used to be able to walk 20,000 steps a day and knowing I can’t achieve that anymore can be frustrating, but my Occupational Therapist came to see me last week and was really impressed by what I’m doing, so that cheered me up a lot.
Made a difference
I get help from various memory services so when I heard MSNAP (Memory Services National Accreditation Programme) were looking for volunteers I decided to offer my services. The work involves interviewing people who use memory services to find out how helpful they have found them and how they might be improved. My first interviews took place in Manchester (my son John came with me), and although it was a bit daunting at first, the people I spoke to were mainly carers and were really nice. Gathering their thoughts and experience was quite an important role and I’m pleased I was able to carry it out.
So now after a fairly busy summer, I’m off to Turkey with my family. I’m going to swim, relax and eat lots of fish…and I’ll definitely be taking my journal along so that I don’t lose all the lovely memories I hope to make.