Coincidence or serendipity?  An insight into dementia

It’s been an absolute age since I posted on Fickle at Fifty.   And I’d like to ask my followers to forgive me.  I guess nothing has really moved me enough recently to compel me to share a story.  Until yesterday morning …

It’s 8am on Sunday and I’m confused.  The door bell is ringing merrily – as if it’s someone I know – and eventually wakes me from my slumber.  I fumble around for my spectacles but can’t locate them.  Has one of the puppies hidden them again – or it is simply that I just can’t remember where I put them?  I venture downstairs – both sight and mind a bit of a blur.  Still in my PJ’s, I tentitively open the front door, not recognising the silhouette through the stained glass.

“Hello, it’s Pam” says a well dressed lady in her late 70s, walking stick in hand.  I don’t know who she is or what she’s doing here.  And tragically, nor does she.

We enter into a rather surreal conversation about why she rang the bell.  She’s certain she’s a relative of my brother-in-law, or perhaps a friend of one of our neighbours, but can’t recall their name.  She mentions that she’s walked for miles but now is on her way home.  When I ask her where she lives, she reflects for a moment then replies that she doesn’t exactly know.

I’m still half asleep and she acknowledges my dazed state by insisting she trouble me no further and turns to leave.  She says her car is parked around the corner and she’ll be fine.   I notice she has no handbag and her hands are empty – no car keys in sight.  But hold on, didn’t she say she’d walked here anyway?

I can’t let her go.  Something tells me she’s fragile and I need to keep hold of her.  Keep her safe.  I invite her in, not really knowing what I am going to do next.

Then I notice a set of keys and a tag hanging around her neck.   I ask if it’s ok to take a look at them and she takes them off and hands them to me.

The name “Pam” is typed on one side of the tag.  I glance at the reverse.  A sudden sadness engulfs me and my heart sinks down into my stomach.  It reads “IF FOUND, PLEASE CALL JEREMY ON …”

If found? I stare at the words incredulous. What an unfortunate choice of expression to say the least. It’s the kind of terminology I’d put on my puppy’s ID tag, not on that of a human being suffering from dementia.

My husband, Steve, offer her tea, whilst I dial the number on the tag.  She refuses politely, and they engage in a discussion about who Jeremy might be.  At one point she says it’s her son who lives near by.  Then changes her mind and suggests that it’s that type of person, you know, what is it, what’s it called?  Oh yes, a brother.  Yes he’s her brother.

Jeremy doesn’t answer the phone immediately so I leave a message.   I dial again to make sure he has another opportunity to hear his ringtone.  A short while later, Jeremy calls back and speaks to my husband.  He confirms he is indeed Pam’s son and that she doesn’t drive or have a car.  She lives just round the corner from us.  Tellingly, he asked if she was found wearing her night dress or if she was fully clothed?  Jeremy explains that he is away for the weekend, unfortunately miles away, and asks if we might escort her home.  If it’s not convenient, he’ll call her care worker who will then ask the police to pick her up and take her home.  It’s something they’ve done for her before.

It’s now 8.35 and I’m fully awake, but still overwhelmed by what I’d read on the name tag. I hear Steve tell Jeremy that we will walk her home, so I head on upstairs to get dressed.  I’m glad we are going to do this for her.  I feel like we should see this through.  I don’t think we’d be able to forgive ourselves if we simply handed her over to complete strangers in uniform.  A niggle also tells me that I want to see her house, see the state it’s in, check she has the essentials … just for peace of mind.

Whilst I am upstairs, I hear Steve tell Pam that Jeremy is her son.  “Oh … right” she accepts, not quite sure we are being totally honest with her.  Steve engages in more casual conversation, not that it makes much sense.  Pam still insists that she’ll drive home now and needs to find her car.   Her 4 children all still live with her and she’ll be fine once she gets there.  Sadly we know there are no children waiting to care for her on her return.  Just a care worker who calls on her twice a day.

Steve notices Pam is wearing a bracelet with a red button on it.  She says she doesn’t know what it does.  He’s seen these before and explains it’a panic or emergency device that she can use to notify her care worker or family if she’s had an accident and can’t reach a phone. Not terribly helpful, I hear myself muttering despondently from upstairs, if the wearer forgets what it’s there for!

We eventually help Pam out of the sofa and walk her outside.  She stumbles on the steps so we support her on either side.  Infuriatingly, she insists on till going to find her car, and wants to walk in the opposite direction to her house.  We humor her for a moment or two, simply to show her that there are no cars parked on the main road where she claims she left her vehicle. She appears genuinely concerned and confused by this as she is certain that’s where it was parked not more than an hour ago.

And then, through coincidence or serendipity (I’d like to believe the latter), a car pulls up immediately alongside us.

“Well hello Pam” says the cheery driver dressed in a carer’s uniform.  “What are you doing out here this early?”   We explain what’s happened and the care worker tells us that Pam is one of her clients and that she’ll take it from here.  She makes a call on her mobile and we are heartened to hear her having a conversation with Jeremy.  We felt, understandably,  uncomfortable about handing Pam over at first, but the phone call reassured us. Pam continues to insistent on finding her car, and the care worker agrees to go and look for it once they have both had a nice cup of coffee at Pam’s.  Reluctantly, Pam is helped into the front passenger seat and awkwardly holds onto the seat belt, not quite sure what to do with it.

We watch, still baffled by the fortuitous appearance of this care worker, as the drives on down the road and takes a right into Pam’s road.

I’ve previously dealt with my own, relatively minor, memory loss in a humorous manner with a lighthearted post about my lost rings.  Today I could have written about this encounter in a similar vein, focusing on the absurdity and comical nature of the conversations we had with Pam. But that would have been disrespectful to all those suffering with dementia.

Curiously, it’s actually Dementia Awareness Week – so I’ve decided to donate £1 to The Alzheimer’s Society on behalf of every new like of this post and new follower of this blog.  

I’m trying to persuade a friend of mine (you know who you are!) to let me have the link to an endearing short story she has penned about a lady with dementia.  It’s sensitively written and well worth a read. Much of it resonates with my own real-life experience yesterday.  I’ll post a link to it if I can later!

Here are some facts on dementia taken from The Alzheimer’s Society website.

  • By 2015 there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.
  • There are 40,000 younger people with dementia in the UK.
  • Two thirds of people with dementia are women.
  • Family carers of people with dementia save the UK £11 billion a year.
  • 80 per cent of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems.
  • Two thirds of people with dementia live in the community while one third live in a care home.
  • 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia.

Why don’t you join me and #DoSomethingNew for Dementia Awareness Week?

 

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The most judged job in the world.

My last post talks through my job hunting antics. I’d always wanted to be a teacher, but having read this post yesterday I think I’ll stick with the somewhat less stressful career in marketing. Lorna is a writer and teacher and her posts are truly inspiring and a lot of fun to read.

Just words.

Every experienced teacher knows it: a mystery email; a whole school gathering; shifty smiles and nervous fidgeting from senior management. Those are the symptoms. There is no cure.

Inspection.

Much as I like to keep a level head about these things and not get over anxious or put on a false show . . . it may be that I go blog-dark for a week while I check my books are properly marked up to scratch with personalised targets for every child, and pupil responses that suggest an ongoing dialogue between pupil and teacher, which is jointly  working towards agreed goals. And stuff. After all, I quite like my job and it would be quite nice to keep it.

And it also makes me think that teaching might just be the most judged job in the world.

The kids judge you, like only kids can do. The rotor blade insistent…

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Yesterday I had bounce … and lots of it!

Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

I’m searching for my next job and exploring all possible options.  It’s exhausting.  Tailoring your CV for each individual role, then writing a well-crafted summary of how your experience matches the position perfectly … waiting in anticipation for an automated or personal acknowledgement of receipt.  Checking your inbox incessantly whilst out shopping, at the movies or in the kitchen simmering an industrial size portion of bolognese sauce that you can divide and store in the freezer to ease mealtime prep once you get that dream job.

Some acknowledgements arrive in your inbox eventually, many others don’t.

Then nothing.  Hours, days, weeks … even months go by without a word.  No glimmer of hope in any shape or form on the horizon to keep your spirits up!

More shopping is purchased, a couple more trips to the cinema and several more industrial size batches of freshly made sauce are now vying for supremacy in the freezer.  It’s difficult to make a sauce with exactly the right depth of flavour each time – and they know it.

Professional common courtesy is crumbling all around us.  No-one seems to want (or perhaps has the time?) to communicate about the important things anymore.  I’ll bet that these recruiters still have the time to post mindless Facebook posts with no real purpose or content – during their working day.  Learning about the status of your application is a necessity – surely?  It’s as much for the organisation’s brand reputation as it is for your own sanity – even if you know deep down that it’s already been rejected, shredded and sent to recycling all within an hour of receipt.

So what was it that made me feel fresh, energized and rejuvenated?  What was it that put a bounce in my step, and in my heart, for the first time in a long while?

It was going back into London yesterday to register with a couple of recruitment agencies.  It wasn’t the agencies themselves that had this effect on me.  It was just simply being back in Central London where I’d spent 20 years of my life – working hard and playing even harder – it was another time, another world for me then – and just for a few minutes I wondered what it might be like to be back there.

… in 3 inch heels, a pencil skirt and buttoned silk blouse, briefcase in hand, tottering off to see a creative agency in Great Portland Street to fine tune a brochure’s copy and design – no email or PDFs back then!  A three hour lunch with printers, then sneaking quietly back into the office in the hope that your boss doesn’t spot you, giggling uncontrollably at your desk whilst you shuffle papers around giving the semblance of filing. You’re desperate for 5.30 pm when you can make a run for it!  Meet friends for drinks in a stone clad basement bar, reached only by a narrow ornate spiral iron staircase, (careful of those heels) secretly hidden down a cobbled street in Soho.  Then jostling for space as you manage to squeeze onto the last tube of the night to head down the Northern Line – staring intensely at the faces in close proximity and imaging the thoughts and desires behind their blank expressions …

So yesterday, feeling the vibe, the electricity, the frenzy in the air, walking along the once derelict back streets off Borough High Street where the Shard now stands tall and proud. A testament to change and how life has moved on … sadly without me.

Just then, a cold breeze brushes past my face, threatening to misshape my hair before arriving at my destination.  I look up at the Shard and imagine the view from it’s pointy tip.  A land of opportunity, diversity, adventure and hope.  A land that may well still find a way to embrace me, drawing me into the heart of it’s thriving business community and feeding off all I have to offer as a seasoned marketing professional … and I feel fresh, energized and rejuvenated.

The Shard

The Shard

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You are what you do

Yesterday I commented on a blog as it really helped to rein in my thoughts.  It’s probably the shortest blog I’ve come across so far, but for me it’s the most meaningful.  Here it is:

Your beliefs do not define who you are –  your actions do.”  (wewerestars)

I spend too much time dreaming about the person I want to be:

  • a loving, understanding and tolerant mother
  • a sexy and inviting wife to come home to (despite hating the way my body looks at the moment!)
  • a talented and successful marketer back in business now the children are older
  • a celebrated blogger renowned for her insight and wisdom with tribes of followers

You know the thing.

But I spend too much time writing lists of things to do to help me achieve my goals, and not enough time actually doing them:

  • the fear of failure (is there any point spending hours writing a blog that no-one will ever read whilst the laundry piles higher than the Alps? My industry has changed so much, do I still have what it takes to do the job?  Why would anyone employ a 50 year old when someone in their thirties with no childcare commitments is hungrier for success?)
  • basic lethargy brought on by low mood and too many glasses of wine the night before
  • daytime tv and the need to slip into someone else’s reality to avoid dealing with your own

So yesterday, after being motivated into action by what I had read, I spent all morning searching job sites and actually applied for a couple of positions (tick).  I called a lady about a dog (a cute puppy I thought might help us all engage as a family more and help to get me fit – tick), devoted a couple of hours reading and commenting on  blogging 101 posts to be neighbourly and for inspiration (tick), cleaned out the guinea pig hutch for a little light relief (tick) and made the children’s favourite dish – lasagna – from scratch (tick).

And … having been totally distracted by all my achievements …

I forgot to pick up my daughter from school!

I wonder what today has in store?

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Dude, where are my rings? (Blogging 101)

Oh sugar!  I hear the droning of the oven and look down.  It’s fired up and ready for a raw feast.  But tonight I made linguini bolognese – heresy for an Italian like myself but there was no spaghetti in the cupboard.  SO WHY WAS THE OVEN ON?

I have to admit to you all that I just don’t remember.

I push the incident to the back of my mind, deciding that it’s probably just “baby brain syndrome” – a common occurrence in new mothers where, shortly after giving birth, your short term memory let’s you down so painfully that you become a veritable laughing stock – even to yourself.   But it’s been over 8 years since I had my last child, so surely it can’t be down to that?

It dawns on me that it has nothing to do with birth.  It’s actually more about getting older and one of the symptoms of approaching the menopause.

Just to illustrate the point, as if I really needed any confirmation, a few days before Christmas, whilst hurrying around the house decking the hallway, adorning the trees and secretly munching as many nuts as I could get away with, I mislaid four very precious rings that I wear every day. The rings were all presented to me by my husband over the years as a mark of his undying love (and I suspect tolerance).

I think I took them off just prior to squelching joyfully into the preparation of a chestnut, bacon, cherry and whisky stuffing.  I added the cherries and whisky concoction myself, and have to admit it was mouth watering on the day! (Eat your heart out Nigella!)

But I also have a fading memory of sliding the rings off my swollen fingers at the end of an evening and placing them on the side of the sofa – feeling the need to be free of metal constraints – allowing my fingers to move freely as an enchantress might whilst devising a love potion.

Then there’s the vague recollection of placing them carefully in the top draw of my bedside table for safe keeping just before enjoying that final game of Candy Crush before drifting off to sleep.

What on earth is going on?  Why can’t I remember exactly where I put my rings?  Frantic days of searching have ensued, rifling through the recycling and the unwelcoming dustins.  Tearing down the decorations three days early in the hope of revealing the jewels under a holly and red berry garland perhaps.  I even tempted the children with a £500 reward for finding them – an incentive even they wouldn’t have been able to resist had they “accidentally” misappropriated the rings for some precious treasure chest or other infantile trifle.

But alas, to this day, I have yet to recover the lost gems.

My husband is naturally furious with me.  But I do notice a gentleness in his gaze, not quite pity yet, but a glimpse of compassion at the thought that, despite my tender years, I may actually be starting to suffer from some kind of mild dementia.

I’ll let you know as soon as they resurface … if they ever do.

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Why here, why now?

I looked in the mirror the other day and realised that something had changed. It wasn’t anything physical that you could see.  It was more of a feeling.  A realisation.  And I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it.

And then it hit me. I’d just turned 50.

I’m on an express train heading straight to old age and the carriage door is locked – there’s no getting off.  No where to go except towards Sixty.  And the thought of that is terrifying me.

I’d like to use this blog to make sense of things.  To help me, and any others of you out there experiencing the same feeling, to brave this new dawn in a positive and proactive way.  To avoid resignation and fight for life that should still be yours – however old you get.

I’m a mother and marketer with two children at primary school. I’ve had the urge to write ever since I was a child but never quite got round to it.

I’d wanted to be an investigative journalist, but mum asked “Why on earth would you want to spend all night in the pouring rain without an umbrella waiting for someone to come out of a building just to get a story?”.   So I turned my mind towards fashion journalism but the fear of failure led me to read French at University rather than enrol at the London School of Fashion.

I ended up in marketing and have spent the last 30 years writing promotional copy – mainly for books and journals – but more recently, to help promote charitable work and a couple of small businesses.  I’ve written the odd complaint letter too – why do these take so long? After all – isn’t the customer always right?  Why do we have to craft pages justifying why we feel the need to complain?

So here we are.  I hope you’ll join me on my quest to understanding what, if anything, has really changed now that I’m no longer in my forties!

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