Emma works full time, she has 3 dogs, 2 grown up kids (Thomas and Millie) and supports her mum who is an ex dental nurse with mixed dementia and her dad who has a range of health issues and is currently going through a dementia diagnosis.
How did you find out about Empowered Conversations?
I struggled for support in Bury but the wonderful Julie Mann (Alzheimer’s Society) sent me lots of information and links. I like to immerse myself in knowledge so that I know what I’m dealing with. Weirdly with my mum I wanted to ‘bury my head’, I was scared – probably because I work every day with older people living with dementia. I’m always a glass half full person, I try to find the positives. Empowered Conversations tries to find the light with dementia, Barbara was fantastic and helping me see the positives.
How did you feel at that time?
I was sinking! Empowered Conversations really helped. I felt so angry about the diagnosis, mum had an operation on her back and they think she had a mini stroke during the op. Mum is an incredibly fit and healthy person, she’s the first person with dementia in the family and it left me feeling really bitter. My own denial was my biggest challenge.
How did the course help?
When Mum asks questions we answer as if it’s the first time. I think Mum feels like she’s in a safer space now, she went into herself and wasn’t talking to any of us. She is more like herself now and I’ve cascaded my learning through the whole family and at work! The breakout rooms were brilliant, they offered a safe space for me to share. The course is worth its weight in gold, I loved the Fried Egg and the Bookshelf analogy.
When I did my fried egg, I lied about my yolk! But then I drew an honest egg. My yolk had nothing in there for me, I was working, looking after my kids and my parents, walking the dog – I had no social life, and this is what it had looked like since my divorce. The dogs were the centre of my universe, everyone else put me under pressure.
I found it helpful that people were at difference stages with dementia. I felt that I was early on with my mum. Those who were caring for those further on with their diagnosis, seemed happier than those in the middle.
What does your egg look like now?
I’ve got my mum, dad, sister, kids, dogs, running and my wellbeing in my yolk. I’m keeping mentally and physically fit, I’ve lost 3 Stone in weight.
I had nightmares about something happening to me and the impact of this on everyone I loved. During the course I reached out to ‘our kid’, she is the only one who really understands what I’m going through.
Mum’s dementia has re-booted me as a person. Anyone feeling like life is getting away from you – drew your own fried egg, it’s for everybody. I’ve hit the jackpot with mum, my mum is now very cuddly and affectionate. When she first told me she loved me it took my breath away. When she tells me she gets hold of my face and says I really love you. I think I’m doing something right if she says that. I’m now telling Millie that I love her. My Mum has changed in a good way but I feel like I have two mums, I’m building a relationship with my new mum. It’s the only way my brain can deal with it. My mum can flit in and out of the two mums.
Tell me about running?
Barbara asked me to do something for me. The gym was expensive and not flexible. In the session we started talking about what we could do, somebody did drawing and I picked running. I joined a running club and two half marathons later, I’ve met more people, made new friends, it clears my head. It’s free and I’m out in nature. I’ve raised money for Alzheimer’s and want to raise money for Age UK Salford now!
What advice would you give others?
If you are struggling for a diagnosis, just keep going, follow your gut feeling! Get your diagnosis and all of the help that you are entitled to. Don’t look too far ahead, get your Lasting Power of Attorney sorted but then live for today. Mum and dad are scared about dying! Take it every day and live, it might be horrible but it might not! Anything could happen. Don’t panic and make yourself poorly. The future will be challenging but I’m prepared for it, their health is paramount but so is mine!
Can you describe Empowered Conversations in a few words?