Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Onesie Update - part 3

Just when you think surely she can't have anything else to write about, another one pops up (and there's still more to come)! For this we are going right back to the beginning of December 2013.

Japan and Dementia?

I never know what's coming next in my fight against dementia or indeed who I'm going to meet. Sometimes a chance meeting can lead to exciting opportunities which I always grab with both hands. On that note I must introduce you to these lovely people who came to visit us all the way from Japan:

They had been over in the UK filming a documentary and were interested in the way I use knitting and crochet to gain publicity for Alzheimer's Research UK

What I didn't know was that in Japan, as in the UK, there is a huge issue surrounding the care of people suffering from dementia. I had always thought that the Japanese cared for their elderly within their community but apparently communities are much more fragmented these days and so the care of people with dementia is a massive problem.

In 2000, Japan introduced a compulsory long-term insurance system to help cope with the ageing population. 1 in 4 of the population is over 65 (in the UK it is 1 in 6) and there are already 4.6 million people with dementia in Japan. Britain has over 10 million people over the age of 65, with more than 800,000 people living with dementia, which costs the Treasury more than £23bn!

In 2005 Japan introduced volunteer dementia 'supporters' which seems similar to the UK's 'dementia friends' scheme. However, in the UK we now have Admiral Nurses who focus on caring for the carers of dementia sufferers (I wish I'd had that sort of support!) whereas Japan does not.

They told me that the government is trying to put the burden of care on relatives which gave rise to one of their questions about what I thought was the best environment in which to care for someone with dementia - at home, with their family was my reply.

But first there was some fun as we headed outside for a bit of light relief with me running around with some knitting. The ground was sodden even then but they didn't want to do the filming on the road so we squelched around outside.

Despite his best attempts, Mike didn't escape the cameras and was interviewed about mum's condition and what I do. He may not run marathons with me but he is my support crew through training and everything I do.

They decided they'd like to follow me whilst I ran and knit and so I headed off down the garden followed by the cameraman and sound engineer. Mike took an hilarious film of it which he said we should speed up and put it to the music entitled 'Yakety Sax' used by Benny Hill!

What you can't see in this photo is the horses. Kizzy and Esther were most upset to see some people chasing me and came galloping down their field to protect me. Esther then started snorting and galloping  round in circles whilst Kizzy did a wonderful impression of a bucking bronco in support. I was laughing so much we had to stop. Once the horses had calmed down a bit, the crew wanted them to come over to the gate to be filmed but they weren't having any of that and kept a good distance away!

Then we headed back inside for some shots of me knitting with Tinker, just visible, asleep next to me. It was quite relaxing actually. They also took lots of shots of the Christmas tree as they are loads of decorations that mum and I made together when I was a child, together with things we made when she lived with us.

The interview took quite a while as everything had to be translated from Japanese to English and then back again!

I told them mum's story and why I am still so passionate about dementia research. Then we chatted about mum and I showed them lots of examples of her handiwork; sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery - it's in my genes!

It was really interesting hearing about how dementia is being tackled in Japan and I was delighted to learn that the Director has made many films about the subject.

They wanted to see some examples of my knitting and crochet so I'd laid out a selection of different styles.

It was really interesting learning about how dementia is supported in another country especially as it came at the same time as the G8 Dementia Summit. It prompted me to learn more about dementia in other countries too.

A few weeks after that I was contacted to send some photos of me running marathons and of me with mum when I was really young. The running photos were easy to come by but the photos of me with mum were not and I had to face some more dementia demons in order to find a photo.

You see one of the things we did to help keep mum's mind active was to look at old photos and talk about them - who they were, what was happening, where they were taken etc. One day when I was tidying her bedroom I found a whole pile of photos ripped up and stuffed into the wastepaper bin. Photos of mum and dad together (their courtship and wedding), my sister & me as children - all the usual family photos.

When I asked her why she'd ripped them up she said that she didn't know anyone in the photos so there was no point keeping them. She'd also scribbled over some of them in pen. It's brought tears to my eyes just typing that.

This is the only one I could find and even that's got a pen mark on mum's nose. 

Podgy little thing wasn't I - waddya mean there's not much difference now?!!!

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