What Matters To You?
Welcome to the first blog on our new Dementia Matters in Powys’s website. We are very happy to have you here!
My name is Sam Bolam and I am the newly appointed Dementia Friendly Community Development Officer. I have just completed my third week in post and it’s been a wonderful whirl of meeting new people, attending meetings and groups and generally building up a picture of what it is going on locally to support those with dementia and their carers in South Powys.
It has also been a genuine joy to see how things are changing with regard to dementia. Many years ago, I ran an advocacy project for people with dementia and the situation was very different. I would definitely have described dementia care as something of a Cinderella service back then. Without a doubt, there were some incredibly dedicated and hardworking individuals and groups. Generally speaking however, it often felt as if little energy or resources were directed towards helping dementia services to blossom and develop into their full creative and innovative potential.
How things have changed!
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the media where there now seems to be a real desire amongst programmers to schedule sensitive portrayals of what it means to live with dementia. Dementia finally seems to have our collective attention. The same seems to be happening across services for people with dementia too. There is a palpable increase in interest and a real desire to join up, collaborate, do things differently, support, nurture and make living well with dementia a reality rather than a mere aspiration. This heartens me a great deal. We all run the risk of being affected by dementia in some way at some point in later-life. Dementia really does need to matter to us all.
However, I am not complacent or blind to the great strides forward that still need to be made in developing communities that can truly be described as dementia friendly at every level. I am obviously very interested in what leverage we have to help this to happen.
Since starting my post, some of my time has been spent looking at the impact of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 that came into effect in April 2016. A central part of the Act creates the responsibility on service providers to operate from a ‘strengths based’ position. This means that everything that services undertake, including all initial and ongoing assessments, need to start from where people are strong, and to help them to build on that. A central part of this approach is the ‘What matters’ conversation. The idea is that instead of people with dementia fitting into whatever services are available locally, services need to start from a position of considering what matters to the person and seeing how they can then support people in maintaining or building on what matters to them. There is great potential in this different starting point to radically shift how things are currently done.
This ‘strengths based’ and ‘what matters to you’ approach is central to Dementia Matters in Powys’s philosophy. Everything that we do is informed and shaped by what people with dementia and their carers tell us is important to them. There is always room for improvement though and this is what we fully intend to do. Keep our sights firmly fixed on those aspirations and personal views that make each of us unique. Service providers who lose touch with this can quickly find themselves out of touch and out of step.
While looking at the Act, my mind has inevitably turned to ‘what matters’ to me. Those that spend longer than ten minutes in my company know that having animals in my life is what matters to me! It is never long before the conversation turns to my four legged friends. Better yet if you have critters too and we get to share pictures and stories. I have two dogs and three horses and life without their warm and delightful presence in my life is frankly unimaginable. I do not want to contemplate a future in which animals do not factor in my life in some way, on a pretty regular basis. I wonder how services, should I ever come to need them, would support me in this in the future? Will they have evolved enough to make this a reality for me? I am talking more than just being able to cuddle a ‘pat dog’ once a week if I live in a care home. Will services have developed in such a way that this support can be offered to me as something that is central to my wellbeing on every level? It is an interesting issue to ponder. That which sustains us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually needs to form the basis of services, yet it is very often these very things that fall outside of what services are able to support us in staying in touch with. I am hoping and working towards this situation changing.
I am looking forward greatly to developing my role over the coming months and getting out and about to make contact with new people and communities across South Powys. I will be writing up how things are going here and I shall also be inviting others along from time to time, to share their thoughts with us here too.
If you would like to write something about your experiences of dementia or would like to know more about how I can support you, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time!