Scottish Caring and Dementia Congress
Well, it’s been a weird experience bringing out Remember Remember. After missing publication day because I was with my mother in hospital in Devon, I returned home for a few days to a pile of copies of the book. I felt strangely disconnected from it. And there was no space to just savour the moment. I was instantly faced with the challenge of psyching myself into appearing at a conference. Nothing exceptional in that, you might think; I’ve spoken at and chaired conferences for several decades. But this was different.
To begin with, it was a dementia conference – the Scottish Caring and Dementia Congress held at Murrayfield Stadium yesterday and today. My first dementia conference so I had no idea what I was going into. I was invited solely because I’ve written this novel, still warm in its covers. Before the domestic crisis down south, I’d intended to do loads of background reading to feel confident about dipping a toe into these waters. How would I be received? I mean … a novelist? Hello?
Second, I am a raw (as in about six weeks old) recruit to the world of living with dementia in the family. It’s quite strange to have had my mother slip from perfectly mentally competent to unable to express her opinions in one fell swoop. A tiny irrational bit of my mind still expects her to snap back to her old self. It feels like a parallel universe or a vaguely haunting dream. Things are touching me in unusual ways.
Third, my mind is split every which-way and at times these past few weeks I’ve had the concentration span of a gnat. Would I be able to keep focused on the questions or the arguments? I went secretly armed with lists of salient points in case emotion or fatigue or sheer mind-wandering exposed me as a fraud.
In the event, I had a fabulous, warm welcome, I was made to feel valued, and I didn’t need to resort to my secret weapon. But then, I was in the midst of about two hundred people who either live with the illness or work in the world of dementia, a cinderella area within medicine – people who believe in the best quality of life for those they care for, who fight against the odds for their discipline to be recognised and resourced. Talking to them was inspirational. Their innovative ideas, their passion and drive, their compassion, shone through. I have come away richer for having spent two days in their company.
There are hundreds more dedicated people out there who are giving their lives and energies to enabling people with dementia to be all they can be. Who have put care back into caring. Who take art, music and poetry into their lives, who take time to understand where aggression and apathy come from, who study and enhance environments and facilities … impossible to enumerate everything they do.
Several of the conference contributors have promised to review Remember Remember. If these special people believe it can contribute to helping others to understand what it feels like to live with or alongside this diagnosis then I shall feel as if in some small way I have been adopted by an elite family.
In the meantime I’m off to Devon again tomorrow. I’ve packed another stack of books for those journeys. No official reports amongst them this time. Joy of joys!