I've met hundreds of people with dementia since we started on our own care journey in 2004 and each person I've met has taught me something new or interesting either about the way they've had to change the way they communicate or shown me how to improve my own communication skills.
I have always tried to smile and be open with each person I've met and have sometimes been rewarded by a smile returned or a hand squeezed. On a number of occasions, I was unable to even make eye contact, as the individual was so encased within their own world. As empathetic as I try to be and as hard as I try to imagine, I had no idea what the world looks like or how it fees to them.
With my own Nan, Gladys, when she would loop her sentences or repeat the same names over and over, I knew who she was talking about and could add context to the conversation. Having been close to her all my life and spoken to her about her vast family over the years, even though "Aunty Lizzie" and "Mrs Payton" died many many years earlier, through her previous stories about them, they lived on in our conversations and in Nan's world.
It's always been different with my clients - as much as I've tried to help, you can't hope to have the same impact or relationship in a couple of meetings. I've often come away longing to find something that I could leave with the families to give them even a bit of what I had with Nan.
And then came along this book, "Elizabeth is Missing" by Emma Healey.
The blurb on the back reads:
"Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognisable - or her daughter Helen, seems a total stranger.
But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.
Because somewhere in Maud's damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about. Everyone except Maud..."
This book took me on a journey into the mind of someone with dementia and beautifully and painfully illustrates the impact this disease has on the persons own perception as well as how it affects her relationship with family and friends.
Written from Maud's perspective, the insight is invaluable and I will be recommending it to everyone I come across and each family meeting I go to. I'll tell them all - everyone who has a loved one with dementia should read this book - it is the nearest you'll ever get to walking a mile in their shoes.
About Liz Faye
Liz Faye is the Founder and Head of Care Services at Carepal Assist Limited
for further details go to: www.carepal.org
or call on 0800 6891000
Click here to purchase via Amazon.co.uk