Who am I?
i am healthy; positive thinking, exercise, meditation and working hard will sustain me. I will retire at 95 ands live to 105. BUT then one Sunday at 8pm I was diagnosed with several immune diseases that changed all that. How could I continue to be the me I had always been. I was terrified. Keep the diagnosis secret and it would have no power. I did not want to be treated differently. I was able for a while to blame my obvious symptoms on 'nurses back'. But then I was diagnosed with serious cognitive impairment and some kind of thing on the narcolepsy continuum which prevented me from driving more than a very short distance. I could no longer hide my symptoms as increasingly I found it difficult to chair meetings and follow conversations. People treated me differently. Suddenly those who used to calll me 'Prof' and keep a professional distance, hugged me and called me love.
It took a long time to reflect, accept and integrate the diagnosis. BUT I AM still me. I am slower, I need more time to focus and I'm less able to think when there is lots of stimulus so I attend fewer conferences and avoid large shopping centres. BUT I have the same values, I stand for the same things, and with constant treatment thankfully I can still do worthwhile things. Work no longer takes up all my time and for that my children and grandchildren are grateful. I am still supporting my passions of treating people as people regardless of diagnosis, raising awareness of dementia, and supporting leadership at every level. My symptoms have slowed me down BUT don't call me love and focus on what I can do not on what I can not.
Every person has some limitations, but every person has strengths and can offer hope and inspiration. Look for what you can learn from people living with dementia; I have gained so much from their strength, determination, feisty behaviours, refusal to be constrained And capacity to love and be loved. I am indebted to everyone I have worked for and learned from. Stop feeling sorry for a person diagnosed with dementia and instead focus on what they can teach you.