Thanks to everyone who came to the Nordic walking taster session yesterday. We all enjoyed a lovely morning striding along the Embankment with the poles giving us momentum and drive - although maybe the allure of the coffee and cake awaiting us at Fay's cafe at Star Rowing club also added briskness and a sense of purpose!
Thanks to our Nordic Walking instructors Paul and Sheila, for teaching us technique and bringing spare poles so we could all join in. We hope to run more of these sessions but in the meantime Paul and Sheila will be continuing to join us at our regular Bedford Park walks, the next one taking place next Friday afternoon.
The art classes continue to be a fun and creative activity on a Monday afternoon and the short tennis sessions are very popular, easy to play and a great way to boost fitness. The allotment group is thriving and we're starting to produce some great fruit and vegetables, it's such a wonderful and busy time on a Thursday morning with everyone helping out with weeding and watering and looking after our wonderful plot.
Why not come along and join us at one of these activities, try something new over the summer, meet new people and discover new skills and talents.
With best wishes
Sarah Russell, CEO
Margaret- Anne Tibbs Blog 47
Who do you think you are?
This week I thought I’d write about our sense of identity. A couple of weeks ago I was redoing a hand-out for the Support 4 Memory course about the emotional needs of people living with dementia. It is based on the work of Tom Kitwood in his last and most important book called “Dementia Reconsidered”. (1998. OU Press). He arranged these needs in a diagram which is shaped like a flower (often now known in the trade as Kitwood’s flower), because the needs cluster together. These are the need for Inclusion, Occupation, Attachment and Identity. He said that people with dementia are in danger of these needs not being met and that the way to meet them is through the Person-Centred approach. Kitwood worked almost entirely with people living in long term care homes – but what he described applies equally to people who are still living in the community.
So – Identity. What is it and why is it so threatened if you have dementia? If you think about it our sense of who we are is complicated. It is made up of the narrative of our own life story, the story of our family, the places where we have lived, the place where we belong, our country. If we do not have memory loss, we can remind ourselves who we are by telling our story – sometimes to ourselves. Sometimes to other people. We take it for granted and it is only when it is threatened that we think about it. But what happens to our sense of identity when we can no longer remember those things?
We can think of identity in different ways. One is our experience of the world and our place in it. Our sense of who we are. Another is the different roles we play, husband – wife, son – daughter, worker - boss, parent-child, group member- group facilitator, etc. etc. Another way is through the messages we receive about who we are from other people which give us a sense of value – or not.
If you are living with dementia other people can put you into a role you have not chosen. If we follow the medical model you become a patient – a passive person who has things done to them. Mind you the stereotypes around age are not that great either. But for decades the negative stereotypes around dementia have been totally dominant. It is all about measuring what people can’t do. Not what they can. This view is so widespread that it gets into most people’s heads. Apparently, studies have shown that people are now more afraid of developing dementia than cancer. And what about the messages you receive from other people about yourself? If you are living with dementia your sense of value can actually be taken away from you because there is so much negativity and fear and stigma around the very word. We can give people value and we can also take it away. How scary is that?
The truth is that our culture does not know how to deal with dementia. Because of the stigma the stories which the person hears from others are usually negative. When the person with dementia refuses to do what we want them to do, or act like we want them to do, we get upset and blame it on the dementia. But it may be an appropriate response to an intolerable situation for the person. It is hard for all of us who don’t have dementia to accept, but the behaviours of ‘protest and disruption’ (to quote Kitwood) are often a response to something we have said or done.
Loss of identity becomes a significant factor when people are living in the medium and later stages of dementia. It’s not such a challenge if a person is in the early stage or has MCI. At that stage the person clearly is still the person they have always been and the changes in cognition which are becoming clear do not destroy the sense of who they are to the rest of the world. It becomes an issue as time passes and the condition progresses.
Thinking about identity I started to relate this, as I always try to do with these blogs, to what we are doing in Tibbs Dementia. I think that in the Music 4 Memory groups, the music therapists are very skilled at noting if and when a person who may be losing their ability to communicate in words is engaging with the music. If somebody who doesn’t usually join in does so, they will pick up on that and respond to them, leading the group to join in with them as well. Sometimes a person will start to sing something out of the blue as it were and the whole group will join in. Ideally every small sign of engagement is noticed and responded to. This reinforces the person’s sense of who they are. They may be transported through the magic of music into a place where they can share their own identity with other people again. It may not last long but is enormously significant when it does happen because, as I am always saying – the FEELINGS remain when the FACTS have been forgotten.
We see the same process in the Clear Voices groups where people who have been attending for some time have shared some well-remembered stories with the other members of the group. They may have told these stories many times so that the group is familiar with them. I think of them as islands of firm ground in a landscape of shifting sands. As times go by, a person’s ability to communicate deteriorates and they become unable to tell these stories coherently. And then sometimes the group as a whole is able to help them to find the words which are escaping them, so that they can finish the story. By doing this they can find their own identity again. And it’s magic.
So, in both Music 4 Memory and Clear Voices the group is holding the person’s sense of identity for them. They are remembering for the person who cannot and by doing so they are restoring the sense of self, the identity of the person, back to them. The same process must be at work when people remember physical skills from long ago – such as football, bowls or swimming. It is, perhaps, not surprising that our groups seem to have such a high feel good factor if this is, indeed, what is going on.
I believe, as the people with dementia who are acting as advocates say, that a person’s essential self – their identity - is not destroyed by dementia. Even when words become elusive and the ability to read and write is lost, people keep trying to communicate with other people. Those of us who do not have dementia have the responsibility to support them as they keep trying. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we should honour them for their heroic efforts.
I believe Christine Bryden when she says, “I cannot lose my membership of humanity, nor my ability to relate to others, simply by losing my neurones”.
SUPPORT OUR CHARITY
Calling Keen Golfers:
Bedford & County Golf Club are hosting their Captains’ Charity Golf Day on Friday 16th August. If you would like to enter please contact the Tibbs office as soon as possible and we can give you more information and an entry form.
Special Treat for Tibbs.- Italian Afternoon tea at The Sharnbrook Hotel
Tickets are selling fast, buy yours now. This will be a fantastic event in a relaxed and welcoming environment. The afternoon tea stunning and a great way to raise funds for our wonderful charity. Why not invite a couple of friends to join you and make it a really special occasion.
This promises to be a wonderful afternoon on Thursday 19th September including a delicious Italian Afternoon Tea served in the beautiful and prestigious setting of The Sharnbrook Hotel. A full afternoon tea will be served as well as entertainment and of course the chance to relax amongst friends whilst helping to raise funds for our great community.
Mezza Luna Panini:
Parma Ham, Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil drizzled with olive oil
Chicken Mayo & Spring Onion
Smoked Salmon, Arugula & Cream Cheese
Freshly Made Traditional Scone
served with clotted cream & preserve
Tickets are 20.00 each and can be purchased through our office by calling 01234 210993. Hurry to buy your tickets as they will sell quickly.
Thank you to the staff at the Sharnbrook Hotel for supporting this event and the opportunity for us to enjoy a truly wonderful afternoon together.
DIARY NEXT WEEK
* We know that you love coming to our services & events but, for reasons including health & safety and insurance, please don’t arrive more than 10 minutes before the start time. Thank you *
MON 12 AUG
CS Activity and Encompass
St Andrews Church
CST and Encompass
St Andrews Church
TUE 13 AUG
Kempston Indoor Bowls Club
1-2-1 Music 4 Memory at home
Kempston drop in withCarers wellbeing group
Kempston East Methodist Church
WED 14 AUG
*Flitwick Cognitive Stimulation and support carers group
Voices 1 and 2
Dame Alice Court
THUR 8 AUG
Mile Road Allotments
Activitea with self support group
St Andrews Church
Soft/ short tennis
FRI 2 AUG
Activitea and Encompass
St Andrews church
Bedford Park Walk
CST and Encompass
St Andrews Church
Please Note : Most of our services are open to all people with dementia and/or their families to just come along whenever you wish – although we would recommend you talk to us to check their suitability for you. However, services denoted with * are specialist services with a fixed number of places, so please contact us in advance regarding joining these (and there may be a waiting list).
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