Help Rochester Cathedral become dementia friendly

Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Cathedral is looking for your help!

Go to the Cathedral on Saturday 2 September  from 2pm; enjoy tea and cakes and have a look around, then join them for Evensong at 3.15pm and tell them how they can make it Dementia Friendly.

Chris Bostock, Anna Chaplain at the Cathedral, is eager to gather the views of people in Medway so they can work towards ensuring everything they do is welcoming and inclusive of people with dementia.

Please let Chris know if you can join them. Email: annachaplain84@gmail.com or call 07563059756.

To find them: The postcode for the Cathedral Office is ME1 1SX – there is no postcode for the Cathedral itself. The west doors face Boley Hill and for more information, visit their website.

Our Dementia Diary

dementia diary

Christina Lee reviews one woman’s powerful story of sharing a life with a partner living with dementia. 

Since getting involved with the Rochester Literature Festival and talking to families of people with dementia at the Memory Café, I decided to read up on dementia to learn more about it and took out Rachael Dixey’s Our Dementia Diary from the library.

As someone who is unfamiliar with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and didn’t even know the difference between the two, reading Dixey’s memoir has been an incredible eye-opener. (I now know that dementia is the set of symptoms such as memory loss that occur when the brain is affected by disease; Alzheimer’s is one of the most common type of dementia). While fact sheets and medical information booklets are of course invaluable resources for learning about the disease, dementia narratives offer powerful, personal stories about what it is like to live with the illness, the impact on the family, relationships and everyday life.

“This book isn’t just about the oldest story – finding love and losing it. It’s also a lot about Alzheimer’s and what it’s like to have it, to care for someone with it, and to lose the love of your life to it.” (16)

Writing Lodestones

Our Dementia Diary was written by Rachael Dixey, a professor at Leeds Beckett University, about the story of her civil partner Irene Heron, who had early-onset dementia at the age of 56 and died in her sixties. Dixey herself was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, and Irene had a brain scan in 2004 which confirmed Alzheimer’s.

Dixey was encouraged to write about her experiences by her producer friend Brian Daniels, who later adapted parts of their story into a play, Don’t Leave Me Now, which was performed at Medway Little Theatre earlier this year.

For Dixey, writing about her experiences as a partner/carer in a journal was a crucial way of managing her feelings and relieving the stress of caring for Irene. It was a way of keeping the ‘tide of grief’ at bay and not letting herself get washed away by it. While she admits that writing won’t magically lead to ‘closure’, it can at least take the emotional weight off.

“I have written it all out. It’s a book, whether it gets published or not. I do feel better, lighter, like when I leave a counselling session, as if some weight has been left behind.” (156)

She describes the process of writing as ‘turning a millstone into a lodestone’, transforming her emotions from being a burden that weighs her down, to being something that keeps her anchored and grounded, eventually leading her to a new direction.

Dementia

(Stock photo)

‘Fifty Shades of Dementia’

Irene was an English teacher who volunteered abroad in deprived areas, then later became a teacher for adult learners. She was an amateur dramatist, loved to sing and could recite poetry by heart. Dementia can happen to anyone, even someone as young and fit as Irene and you can’t prevent it simply by doing crosswords and Sudoku.

“This is terrible, a terrible, terrible thing to have happened to someone who was so vital, so alive, becoming a stooped, mumbling and sad figure. Senseless, all senseless.” (76)

At first, she forgot her keys and got lost. Then she lost the ability to count money, and couldn’t follow the plot of a book. She became easily confused and suspicious of strangers, mostly the care-workers Dixey hired to look after Irene. Not being able to remember what she did and where she was made Irene extremely irritable and completely changed her personality. She was angry at Dixey for doing something that she herself did, and accused the care workers of stealing things. She had trouble making decisions and became frustrated when she forgot that she made these decisions. She kicked Dixey out of the house they lived together for years in because she thought Dixey was an intruder. As her behaviour grew more erratic and violent, she even grabbed the steering wheel while Dixey was driving on the motorway.

“She is alive, though, but it feels a bit like she is dead to me. This is the conundrum of Alzheimer’s.” (98)

Even though Irene lived for another ten years after her diagnosis, Dixey felt that she was already ‘mourning’ Irene long before. As Irene’s symptoms worsened, she needed more and more help with simple tasks, and Dixey could no longer hold conversations with Irene. There was nothing of the intelligent, witty woman she fell in love with left in Irene. For Dixey, not being able to share her feelings, thoughts and memories with Irene, was the worst. Irene was alive, but she wasn’t ‘living’ life at all.

Finding A Voice

“Every book I read has something which speaks to me in a deep way about my experience.” (80)

When Dixey had cancer, she poured herself into reading books by other cancer patients. Books were a source of power for her in a time of need. In the same way, she explains that part of the reason for writing Our Dementia Diary was her wish to become a source of strength for others in a similar situation as her. It is not easy to read these narratives, especially for those who have seen the effects of dementia first-hand in people they love. Yet when thinking about whether she would have wanted to read a dementia memoir when Irene was first diagnosed with dementia, Dixey wholeheartedly believes that such a book would be an empowering tool for those who are going through a hard time and raise awareness for LGBTQ and younger people struggling with dementia.

“Would I have wanted to read someone else’s outpourings about Alzheimer’s? Someone who had really been there, lived it, lost the love of their life to this disease? Yes, I would have wanted that book, would have sought it out. […] If it helps just one person get through the nightmare it will have been worth it.” (13)

She speaks on the behalf of those who do not have a voice, whether it is because of dementia, or because they do not have a platform for speaking out their stories. Even though their experiences of illness and grief are different, her book is a testimony to others also going through dementia that they are not alone, and that however difficult it may be now, they will get through it.
To learn more about dementia or talk to advisers, visit Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society.

If you missed the performance of Don’t Leave Me Now, you can watch a reading of the play produced by NHS Birmingham Capacity Act Team here.

Double Dutch – Battle of Medway Family Crafts

Dutch Raid Battle Medway

Join us at Rochester Children’s Library to “celebrate” the Dutch Raid on the English navy!

Sew your own tulip funny face, make your own sea-themed windmill or deck out your very own wooden boat. And once you decide on your banner colours, you can decorate your shield, sword and visor!

It’s all free and there’s no need to book but children must be accompanied by an adult.

Saturday, June 17 from 10.30am – 1pm.

With many thanks to the City of Rochester Society for their grant support again this year, which enables the event to take place.

The Dickens Festival

Dickens 2016

Join us at Rochester Children’s Library during the Dickens Festival for Poetrees inspired by the great man’s works. Or choose your Dickens Name and write your very own great work, starring the character you would have been!

It’s all free and there’s no need to book, but children must be accompanied by an adult.

Saturday, June 10 from 10.30am-1pm.

With many thanks to the City of Rochester Society for their grant support again this year, which enables the event to take place.

Legoland encourages a book not tech at bedtime

Jenni Falconer presents Joseph Parkes (10) with a giant copy of the bedtime story he wrote to launch LEGOLAND® Windsor resorts new Castle Hotel. UK

Earlier this year, the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort launched a bedtime story writing competition following research revealing that more than half of parents (55%) ban tech before bedtime in favour of traditional bedtime stories, with a ‘tech black out’ sweeping the nation at 4.41pm.

And the winner was ten year old Joseph Parkes from Wiltshire, who beat hundreds of entries in the nationwide competition to have his bedtime story published as a real-life book and placed in every room of the new LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel, opening on 1 July 2017.

Continue reading

P.I.Y. – Publish It Yourself: Publicity, Marketing and Author Brand

Bookstore

Following an exceptionally informative workshop with her last year, the wonderful Truda Thurai very kindly sent us a link to an excellent interview as a follow up. The equally wonderful Christina gathered a few pearls of wisdom from it to help self publishing authors along the way.

Since the dawn of the Internet, Kindle, and e-books, self-publishing has become easier than ever. There are of course many ups and downs with self-publishing. You get more control, more royalties, and you know exactly what is happening with your book. But you also have to take more responsibilities and risks, and do a lot more work yourself.

For emerging writers who are seeking self-publication, the journey to publication can feel like swimming in the middle of the ocean with no idea how to get to the shores. In this interview, Joel Friedlander from thebookdesigner.com talks to Dana Kaye about self-publishing and how authors can get more publicity for their books.

Joel is a book designer who runs a website on publishing and has been giving brilliant advice to authors on how to get their work published. Dana is writer and book critic with years of experience in the industry and recently published Your Book, Your Brand, a practical guide on building author brand in self-publishing. 

I’ve finished my book – what do I do now?

Congratulations! You have finished your book and have decided to go for self-publishing. But how?

The End

“I think that the first step is to have a content strategy to know what your message is going to be, what you’re going to say, and then making sure your online house is in order, that you have the correct social media platforms, that you have a website that is not just an author website, but one that jives with your brand.”

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Rochester’s Dementia Memory Cafe

As you know, we’re greatly involved with both the Kent and Medway Dementia Action Alliances, which has informed our Memory Box project in adapting to different groups of people telling us their stories.

Dementia Memory Cafes are a growing resource across the country for people living with dementia and their carers, to come together for support and to combat social isolation.

We dropped into the Rochester cafe last week on what would have been Sir Terry Pratchett’s 69th birthday, taking along a few Quantum Weather Butterflies and some random reminiscence items, thus combining The Turtle Moves with The Memory Box.

The Rochester cafe is organised by Alzheimer’s volunteer John Portman and takes place on the last Friday in the month at St.Peter’s Church in The Delce from 1.30-3.30pm. There’s plenty of free, on street parking and a warm welcome awaits you.

The Turtle Moves (Again)

tm web

Following a successful event last year, we’re celebrating Sir Terry Pratchett and Discworld’s Glorious Revolution with The Turtle Moves (Again) on Saturday, May 20.

Make a mini golem or troll, decorate your own Maskerade Mask or Quantum Weather Butterfly or choose a variety of egg related treasure to create a lasting tribute to the Night Watch. If you’ve time, you can take home one of each!

We’re also delighted that Alternate Shadows Theatre Company will once more be joining us, bringing Sir Terry’s wonderful characters to life.

And the wonderful Cafe @172 will again be serving up Discworld Delicacies such as Sausagesinnabun, along with a boiled egg or two!

The craft workshop is free but children must be accompanied by an adult. No booking required.

11am – 3pm in Room 11, Rochester Community Hub & Library.

With many thanks to the City of Rochester Society for their grant support again this year, which enables the event to take place.

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