Friday, 21 January 2011

Remind me who I am again

In the memoir of her mother's decent into multi-infarct dementia,  Linda Grant writes movingly of the sadness of memory failure, reaching especially to the loss of self identity (hence the title, Remind me who I am again).


One author suggests that those in nursing homes with advanced dementia should have a photograph of themselves-perhaps taken in healthier times-pinned to their bedroom door, along with a description of their primary role during their adult life-teacher, mother, policeman etc.

I was reflecting on this when I read the latest copy of the magazine that comes from my old school here in Bedford (Bedford Modern).  One of the masters who had taught me had recently died and there was a lovely obituary, with a photograph of him with his wife and son (Nick who was in my form) and daughter. His wife was not on the teaching staff, although as wife to one of the boarding house masters inevitably got involved in one way or another. She had taught a small group of us a first aid course. I believe I was 12 years old and still recall what to do if someone got a marble stuck up their nose!

Memorial of thanks to British people  Vienna
What of course I didn't know was anything at all about this lady. The obituary told me that she had been on one of the last kindertransport trains fleeing the Nazis from Austria in 1939. Of course there's no reason why 12 year old boy in 1966 should have known or even been interested in the fact at the time, but as  I reflect I recall others who had taught me whom I subsequently discovered had gained gallantry medals during the Second War World or been involved in other heroic or otherwise fascinating deeds.

All to say that everyone has a story. In treating and caring for those with dementia or simply those of a great age, I think it helps to gain some knowledge of the person's past, and not just in the traditional sense of medical history (which may include herniae but ignore Victoria Crosses!).
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