In her fourth blog instalment Dianne Wilkinson, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 54, reveals why she’s feeling so positive about life
If there’s one thing dementia has taught me it’s that you have to live every day as it happens. It’s called ‘living in the moment’ and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I might not know what day of the week it is when I wake up, which is annoying, and I might have to rely on my diary for every single appointment (or to tell me what I did yesterday!) but that doesn’t have to stop me enjoying myself…does it?
Fortunately my family seem to agree with this philosophy and are always trying to find ways we can have fun together. My daughter Angela treated me to a weekend in Barcelona in March which was a lovely surprise. It also happened to be Mother’s Day and my 59th birthday while we were there and we celebrated in style, making the most of the time together. The weather was brilliant, we ate out, explored the city (we walked for miles) and took lots and lots of photos. When we were packing to go home we agreed the trip had been a great success. ‘You haven’t been half as hard work as I thought you’d be Mum!’ Angela said, which I decided to take as a compliment!
One thing I have had to learn recently is to pace myself. I became extremely tired last month because I’d taken on too much and didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Eventually, I had to admit defeat and cancel a couple of appointments which I felt really bad about (I hate letting people down). I was so tired that I even found myself getting a bit down which isn’t like me at all. The doctor sent me for blood tests which showed I was low on folic acid which might have accounted for my fatigue. I’m taking supplements now and feeling a lot better, but I know that I’ve also got to start saying ‘no’ sometimes. It isn’t easy…but I’m trying.
I’m still very involved with a group called DEEP (The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) and I’ve attended some particularly interesting talks and activities recently. One was about the difference between drug treatment for dementia and art therapies. In my opinion, you need both; I know medication can sometimes be helpful for people with Alzheimer’s (although there’s no cure of course) but I also know that art therapies have been proven to help as well. I’ve decided to join a singing group because I know that singing is good for the brain and it can make you feel more energised and uplifted too.
I also attended a fascinating therapeutic workshop about the power of memories and how they affect your life today. It got me thinking about the good and bad memories in my life and I realised that how I run my life now is a result of happy experiences and not so happy experiences – which must be the same for everyone?
I hope I’ve learnt from the mistakes I’ve made, I think I must have because I can honestly say that I’m living well with dementia and I’m happier now than I have been for years. I’ve made lots of new friends from going to these groups and feel more positive about life in general. If you focus on negativity, and ‘what might have been’ you’re never going to be really happy.
I know I’m messier than I used to be. I’ve tried so hard to be organised, especially with my paperwork, but I just don’t seem able to sort it out anymore. My bedroom’s much messier too. My daughter Amanda tried to help me recently by tidying it and rearranging the furniture so that it looks much better. Unfortunately having furniture in different places has really thrown me, now I can’t find anything and guess what? It’s messier than ever!
I refuse to let that bother me though. I suppose what dementia does is to make you focus on what’s really important and I have a particularly important event coming up in July. Julie, my eldest daughter is having another baby – my third grandchild! I can’t wait.