Preparing For A Life With Dementia

According to current predictions there’s a ONE in THREE chance that everyone over 65 will develop dementia. The average life expectancy once diagnosed with dementia is seven years.

Now here’s the question, If you only had seven years left to live how would you spend them?

Hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones that lives a long, happy and healthy life beyond 65. Even if you do, the chances are that a family member or friend will not be so lucky.

The reality is that everyone in society will be touched by dementia in years to come. With no cure on the horizon, dementia is the disease that is set to tear more families apart than cancer ever did.

Dementia does not discriminate.

In the last two years I’ve helped many families cope with this devastating disease. So many lessons have been learnt. Each week is a rollercoaster of emotions. You feel proud to have helped, upset that you can’t do more, and tearful that the families you’re helping are seeing their loved ones fade away, becoming a shadow of the person they once knew.

However, there is some light at the end of the very dark dementia tunnel.

Medical experts are striving for a cure. Society is finally waking up to the dementia time-bomb and better support services are evolving, albeit far too slowly.

With our dementia support, we take the view that we can’t cure people but we can make them feel very special when we’re with them.

The key to achieving this is making sure you let people enjoy the things they’ve loved doing throughout their lives. Enjoying favourite pastimes, socialising with their mates, meeting people who genuinely care about them, makes the world of difference to their outlook on life.

To do this properly you need to get to the heart of what “sparks people into to life”. Discovering people’s positive life experiences takes time, compassion and patience. However, when you get to the heart of “what makes each person tick” you can start to plan a more enjoyable and rewarding future for them.

Getting to know the real person behind their dementia is crucial. It allows you to tailor your support to each person, making them feel special and valued. It’s probably the main reason our dementia golf sessions have proved so successful. Knowing that you have created a weekly highlight, something to look forward to, a positive experience as well as raising the self-esteem in a dementia life is extremely rewarding work.

Unfortunately this person-centred and liberating approach to dementia support is sadly lacking across the UK. So often services are DELIVERED AT rather than DESIGNED FOR people.

Not everyone likes singing, dancing, flower arranging, painting, sport, crosswords or puzzles. Why we start forcing people to do things they don’t enjoy, and have never liked doing throughout their lives is beyond me. I wouldn’t thank you for taking me to a community centre for a craft class. I’d rather watch paint dry!!

As a result I’ve started to think about the moment when I may be diagnosed with dementia.

I don’t fear this moment. However, how will people know what I enjoy, where I like to go, my dreams, my ambitions and my wishes for my future with dementia?  These thought-provoking questions have inspired me to start preparing my own DEMENTIA WILL.

Whilst I’m still in charge of my own destiny and have the mental capacity to make my own decisions, I’ve started sharing my dementia will with my friends and family.

So here it is….

  • Play golf most days
  • Play all the golf courses on my bucket list
  • Socialise with my mates over a pint and discuss all the sporting news
  • Subscription to sporting channels so I can watch all the major sporting events
  • Let me live independently for as long as possible
  • Treat me with dignity and respect
  • Only surround me with positive people
  • DO NOT PUT ME IN A CARE HOME

It’s very simple, very clear and easy to deliver. However, as a dementia care plan it’s not currently available.

This is one of the main reasons we are so passionate and determined to create dementia friendly golf resorts where people can continue to enjoy “a sporting life” – even when this terrible disease tries to get in the way.

Whilst we can’t design support programmes for everyone, hopefully our work will inspire others to create similar services that meet the “dementia wishes” of more people later in life.

And finally… give some thought to sharing your own dementia will… it may give you a better chance of doing the things you’ve always enjoyed, even if a dementia diagnosis comes your way…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Priceless Golfing Moment

Imagine hearing the words “sorry, I know you’ve enjoyed it, but I’m afraid your golfing days are over” This happens far too often when people are diagnosed with dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Dealing with the fact you have an incurable illness must be hard enough, but to be then told that your favourite pastime can no longer be enjoyed must be totally devastating.

However, today provided a priceless example of how golf can play a huge part in sparking people back to life.

We help a golfer who endured the “double whammy” of a Parkinson’s diagnosis and the realisation that his golfing days were numbered.

As we were starting our golf session this afternoon he arrived and said “I’ve got something to show you”.

He then started to show me some photos and golfing mementos from a days golfing at Turnberry.  His grandson had decided to surprise him to a day out at one of the most spectacular courses in the world. He was overwhelmed with the gesture and had an amazing trip.

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As he finished talking me through the day, he looked at me and started to cry.

The next bit will stay with me forever. He said “Thank you for giving me the chance and belief that I could still play golf – I thought my golfing days were over”

We then hugged each other and shared a tear.

To know that our golf days can have such a positive impact is both inspirational – and at times – very emotional.

Moments like this one today make us very proud of the work we do “keeping golfers golfing”, no matter what challenges they face in life.