My friend Brigid and I went out yesterday to our favourite coffee bar. We like it because it isn’t too noisy, we can see the sea, and the coffee is quite good. Brigid and I are very good friends, although we only met about three years ago, when I was diagnosed with vascular dementia and she with Alzheimer’s.
After our diagnoses, we both took part for a few weeks in a cognitive stimulation course at the hospital. We were then advised by the psychologist to join the Forget Me Nots group (FMNs) in Canterbury. We’ve enjoyed the FMNs and have been kept very busy with discussions about dementia and trying to keep society informed about it.
But Brigid and I also need to meet for our afternoon coffee to share our problems. We don’t have to explain to each other about our disappearing short term memory. We know it too well.
Brigid tells me how difficult it is to be treated like a child by, as she puts it, a half-wit who tells her: “You are a little forgetful dear, aren’t you?”. “God, my blood boils!” she says.
And I say, “I know Brigid. But it isn’t her fault that she’s a bit dumb. Like you have blue eyes and I have brown ones, she was born that way.”
“I know”, she says. “But I must tell you before I forget, that I went to my appointment at the Dentist and their receptionist is BRILLIANT! I’m so happy, she made my day! She’s bright, organised and looks at me with a great smile. She talks to me the same way as to other people. Such good manners and kindness! That is what we need. Intelligence, organisation and kindness.”
And I say “Oh Brigid, if we could only know who our GP is going to be each time we go to the surgery, and if only we were given medications with calendars. You know too well how easy it is to forget whether or not you have just taken a pill!”
You see, Brigid and I are always trying to avoid the Triangle of Dementia: short term memory not working, confusion following, becoming emotional, depressed or aggressive! We go for our weekly coffee so we don’t disappear into this Triangle!