In this week’s post, Lucy reflects on a Beyond Dementia workshop she attended at Manchester Museum.
When I was offered the chance to take part in a workshop with people living with Dementia, my initial reaction was one of slight fear and hesitation. However a voice inside my head was telling me to grab this opportunity and to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. A few weeks ago I’d made a remark about how I felt ignorant regarding my awareness and knowledge of dementia, so this seemed like the ideal time to address this. In all honesty I’d been feeling a bit apprehensive in the lead up to this workshop; I knew relatively little about Dementia going in, so was unsure what to expect or how I’d cope. My biggest worry I think was offending someone; being sympathetic but not patronising, being helpful but not overly so to the extent that I take over. However, despite my concerns, I saw this as a valuable opportunity to make a positive contribution, and if it meant I could make a small difference to a handful of individuals living with this disease, then it would be worth my initial anxiety. As it happened one of the attendees, Mary, completely put me at ease with her jolly disposition. Her condition does not prevent her from living life full of laughter; in fact her sense of humour is second to none. One of the Museum volunteers appeared to lose their train of thought, to which Mary quipped with a chuckle; “Welcome to our world!”
The Artist leading the workshop, Lucy, came armed with clay, an array of tools and a book on Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I knew we’d be in for a very unique and creative afternoon. So with the aid of an alphabet of stamps, we learnt how to write our names in Hieroglyphics. Mary was quite capable so only needed some aid here and there with the activity; just a few friendly prompts and reminders really. I could tell she was keen to do as much herself as possible so I was careful not to mollycoddle her. She was also quick to share her love of Egyptology. She reminisced with such passion about her trip to Egypt many years ago, where she sat alone in the desert looking out to the Great Pyramids with the starlit sky twinkling above her. Her account was extremely vivid and I was taken aback with the amount of detail she recalled. It was very apparent she had a gift for storytelling. Her words were incredibly moving and her positivity was truly inspiring. She made me feel very humble and I still wonder how she manages to maintain such a motivational outlook on life. I guess she sees no point in wasting time feeling sorry for herself but to cherish every minute and, whenever possible, to have some fun along the way.
Delilah, another attendee, was a little more quiet during the session. She sat alongside Lucy for the main duration of the afternoon, but even though she wasn’t as vocal or as active as Mary, she was still wearing a smile. In fact, on occasion I found her to be quietly observing me, not so much what I was doing, but just watching my facial expressions: I would’ve liked to have known what she was thinking. Delilah’s gentle demeanor was all the more amplified by Mary’s larger than life character. It was so lovely to see the warmth, love and support from Delilah’s husband when he came to collect her at the end of the session. I was overcome with emotion and it made me realise just how important these workshops are and the interaction and stimulation they provide. Long may they continue!
The names of the workshop participants have been changed.
You can find out more about becoming a Dementia Friend here