Today was a pretty disastrous day for me as a member of the army of million unpaid family carers. Yes, I merely ultimately burnt dinner for us which I had slaved for for hours.
But I am enormously grateful to be in a loving relationship where it can be hard work – and I will definitely still miss it.
I am trained as an academic physician in dementia, with both a research and professional, and personal, interest in the subject. Just ask anyone who has known me well for the last 25 years or so.
As an unpaid carer, but one of many, I don’t feel the aggrandisement of the words ’empowerment’ and ‘engagement’ are what I particularly want, though I think these interrelated concepts, popular with professional grant applicants, are very important.
As not a member of the ‘conference class’, I do not in any way resent those with the power, influence or ‘deep pockets’ fronting yet again conferences where the greatest and good can exchange best practice with one another.
As an unpaid carer, I think what I really desire are “dignity”, “time” and “space”. Of course these are not words which trip off the tongue of professional wonks or conference organisers, as they suffer from the perceived lack of ‘measurable outcomes’.
The managerial adage ‘if you value it, measure it’ unfortunately comes with some operational baggage, ‘if you don’t value it, don’t measure it.” To say I was alarmed at the lack of ‘caring well’ in “The Well Pathway for Dementia”, despite the consultation events which undoubtedly were seen to happen, is a mild understatement.
I don’t care about myself, but I do think it’s a kick in the teeth to those who are, or who are concerned with, unpaid carers, paid carers with parlous employment rights, clinical nursing specialists providing high quality care (including in end of life and palliative care), respite care (day centres, for example), care at home, and so on.
At the start of this year, I was able to celebrate with close friends and colleagues the launch of my third book on dementia, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, entitled “Enhancing health and wellbeing in dementia: a person-centred integrated care approach.”
My first book “Living well with dementia: the importance of the person and the environment”, written around the NICE Quality Standard 30, was published in 2014, and won best health and social care book of the year award for the BMJ Book Awards in 2015.
My second book, “Living better with dementia: good practice and innovation for the future” published in 2015, the first of mine to be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, with main foreword by Kate Swaffer was the one where I confronted eating well, incontinence, GPS ‘tracking’, whole person care, delirium, ‘sporting memories’, antipsychotics and diversity, to name but a few.
Thanks to all my close friends who came to support me on this important day for me. All the speakers and all the delegates attended entirely free of charge – it was an amazing afternoon, I thought.
This third (and not the last) book reviewed extremely well from a wide range of interested parties. In this book, I considered what I perceived to be what elements of the integrated care pathway might need to be present.
After the diagnosis of dementia, which also can come with a sense of relief that there finally exists an explanation for a whole series of ‘difficulties’, many people describe their journey through the NHS and social care as baffling, perplexing and stressful.
At my launch event, I was lucky to be joined about a number of great speakers, who don’t often tour the conference circuit despite being heavily involved with aspects of topics which interest me in dementia.
I’d like to thank Majidur Rahman, a friend of mine from when I did my MBA 2011-3. Majidur meticulously archived the event in the film below in his rôle at Aleph Productions. Whilst it comes in at about 200 minutes, I hope you agree it provides a wonderful, illustration of what can happen when people come together with individual concerns and hopes.
I’d also like to thank Kate Swaffer, who kindly gave up time to see us all and to lead the discussion at the end of the day. Kate is CEO of Dementia Alliance International, the partner group of Alzheimer’s Disease International. For me, too much of what is not good in commissioning dementia is the obsession with unsound metrics. For example, whether or not you change hearts or minds in newspaper articles by saying or not ‘dementia victims’ in large font as the headline might not be covered with the overall number of ‘Dementia Friends’.
And special thanks to Lisa Rodrigues CBE – personal friend, personal inspirational mentor, fierce advocate for health – who hosted the whole afternoon for me brilliantly.
I agree with the need for public education about dementia, articulated well in the only English dementia strategy ‘Living well with dementia’ (Department of Health, 2009). I do, however, think it inappropriate to equate a multi-million pound intensely professionally marketed product, where the scripting of sessions is not only inflexible but also intransigent, with a ‘social movement’.
Measuring the wrong outcome is of course, whisper it, a cardinal sin. The ‘impact’ of dementia rights is not how many placards you can hold up saying you ‘like rights’ (in no way reversing the closure of law centres which happened around the time of the David Cameron Dementia Challenge 2012). It would, however, be relevant whether the national government listens to professional concerns over the alleged offences in the United Nations Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Or whether the Care Quality Commission cares seriously about abuses in degrading treatment, privacy or liberty as actionable abuses of human rights.
I would like to suggest something now deeply politically incorrect now. You do need ‘experts’ to help make the case that ‘supported decision making’ for dementia might be abuse of the UNCRPD. Such arguments could be and should be coming from DAI as they negotiate policy at the world stage viz United Nations or World Health Organization.
Likewise, the success of empowerment and engagement cannot be necessarily gauged by the number of local groups run, the number of policy groups ‘influenced’ or the number of harmonised facilitation sessions executed according to strict guidelines. This for me is a triumph of market-led process over outcomes leading to the potential of high quality care.
I hope that you can find time to listen to our video above. It wasn’t “commissioned”, or “budgeted for”, and does not have “outcomes” which need “evaluating”, but it does convey the notion that some things fall outside of the scope of a dementia industry.
I have no doubt about the ‘feel good factor’ for these annual conferences. And I think it’s terrific that the #Dementia2020 organisers went out of their way a number of free places available. But these are the same speakers with the same tired messages with the same glaring omissions – for me only, but everyone’s different.
Here’s to a happy time for me earlier this year.