Today’s Dementia Diary is written by Empowered Conversations Project Manager, Emma Smith. Find out more about Emma here.

My mate Jo posted a film on facebook last week.  She’d taken part in a project where the participants were supported from the Olympic Diver Chris Mears to face their fears and jump off the top diving board (10 meters high).  I think there were 8 people who took part, they all achieved it but their struggle to take the plunge off the top board was clearly visible and at times made for difficult and emotional watching.

I try to push myself every year to do something that takes me out of my comfort zone, normally this involves an open water swim in a lake or a weekend bike ride (which is where I met Jo – the intrepid diver!).  I go swimming twice a week in a pool and cycle as a means of transport, but these personal challenges are about pushing myself that bit further. Why bother?  I suppose I like the challenge, I like the sense of achievement at the end, I even like it when my fingers and toes thaw out and I can tie my own shoe laces!

It’s not easy to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  I’ve noticed with age that I am less willing to do this, which is probably why I make myself do at least one challenge every year!  The control and decision making around these challenges sits with me, with maybe a bit of egging on from my mates!  In a work situation we can be encouraged or pushed (depending on the boss) out of our comfort zones where the control and decision making doesn’t fully sit with us, if at all!

Last week was a week in my uncomfortable zone!  We’d had two courses coming up for months that would push me out of my comfort zone for different reasons, dates kept getting switched around but finally were set and they both landed last week.  To make it a bit worse, the first course was on my first day back after a week away and the bank holiday – arghhhhh!  I’m very comfortable delivering this course to family carers and over the past few months have gained new confidence delivering the course to new audiences.


Why was I in the uncomfortable zone?  Tuesdays was our biggest gig yet, 45 people in a lecture theatre over at Tameside General – a mix of NHS staff, volunteers and family carers on a new 1 day format of the course.  The wonderful admiral nurses had raised the funding for the course and invited us over!  Then on Thursday we had a group of educators from Blackburn College on a taster course.  How did I feel?  Out of my comfort zone!  How did I feel once the courses had been delivered?  Wonderful!  Did I have anxiety dreams the night before both course?  Yes, Wednesday night it was endless driving on unfamiliar roads where I kept taking the wrong exit which made me later and later and Monday night I had to tell Phil that my 3 year was coming to the course but I thought it would be ok!

I know that the entire team were pushed in to their own uncomfortable zones last week, Margaret and Barbara road tested the new musical version to this same 45 people!  As Empowered Conversations grows we will all become comfortable delivering the course to a whole host of people and group sizes.  I can guarantee that as soon as this happens the next challenge will come our way, dropping us back in to the zone of uncomfortableness!  As a team we will use our combined resources and skills to respond to the challenge of this zone.

As an individual working in the field of dementia being in the uncomfortable zone provides me with a valuable opportunity to reflect on how a person with dementia might feel.  Does it feel like a constant challenge doing the stuff that I just take for granted?  Do they live forever in the uncomfortable zone or do they get times when they can relax in their comfort zones?

[This blog was originally posted at The Diary of a Project Manager on 31/7/17]