Alzheimer’s Society AGM talk 6 Oct 2015
I am delighted to have been asked to speak today as a recently appointed Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador who has for the past three years volunteered with the Society to apply what skills I have to benefit others as well as myself.
As you hear me speak you may realise that I am a former teacher and headteacher. I’m married with three adult children and three grandchildren and I live in the historic city of Canterbury where despite my accent I’ve lived with my wife Rosemary for the past 34 years.
My route through diagnosis was very different to most other people’s. I went to my GP having had a number of unexplained falls and feeling of exhaustion and lack of concentration at work and at home. I had suffered a number of infections over the previous few years and thought this was another one and that anti biotics would sort me out. They didn’t. After some more tests by the GP around my concentration he sent me for an MRI scan and an appointment with the neurologist. The GP didn’t tell me but he wanted to rule out a brain tumour. The neurologist gave me the good news that it wasn’t a tumour but that it looked like the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease a diagnosis which 5 months and many tests later on New Years Eve 2010 was confirmed at the Canterbury Memory Clinic. I was 55 years of age and at that time had not met anyone below the age of 75 with dementia. As you know Dementia is a spectrum of conditions and Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain and is far more than losing one’s memory although that is a part of the wretched disease.
The next part of my talk will focus upon 4 or 5 key questions relating to my involvement in the Society and these are :
Why do I get involved? How do I get involved? What am I involved with? When and where do I get involved?
Why? Because after a lifetime of public service I still want to feel I can help to make a positive difference to the lives of those like me who are affected by dementia. I need an outlet for my energy and interests which continues to feed into my sense of self hood and self worth, both of which are so easily diminished by dementia. I am very eager to see the Society better meet the needs of Younger people affected by dementia, we are still a marginalised group within a marginalised group. I went to bed one night and there were 16,000 of us I awoke the next day to find the Society had found another 26,000 members of this group! I would suggest that there are many more out there who either do not want to come forward or are mis-diagnosed. I am involved because of the inspiration I draw from the many amazing, caring and superbly skilled people I have been blessed to meet who both provide and utilise the service the Society provide. As a former leader myself I see in Jeremy the skills required to lead staff effectively but he needs a committed staff alongside him – he has that in abundance.
How? What? Now as an ambassador, a role I am proud to carry out hopefully as a role model to inspire others to support the work of the Society. I am a member of the Research Network reading, scoring and then discussing as a panel member the applications which related to the Care and Well Being aspect of the Networks portfolio. This is very stimulating, informative and challenging – all good stuff! I am on the monitoring group for the PREVENT project seeking to identify risk factors for those in the their 40/50s. I co-present with Society staff the training for the crucial work around Service User involvement. Connected with this I have served on interview panel for staff appointment and advised on best practice. I wrote and read a piece at the Society’s first Carol Concert in 2013 and must have done a decent job because I’ve been asked back again fro this year’s event in Rochester. I provide contributions to the Society’s Living with Dementia magazine which is an excellent publication. Often the Society ask folk like me to comment upon literature they are either producing or endorsing. Honesty is always at the core of my response. This I hope has been helpful. I have worked with the media team and with Janet in the Knowledge Centre where my teaching background has been put to good use. Connected to this I really thrive in front of an audience and have given a number of talks at meetings and conferences on behalf of the Society. Once a teacher, always a teacher, could be applied readily to me. The Society has recognised that whilst I retain these skills you are keen to help me to help others.
When? Pretty much when my diary allows and when I know I will have the support. I do say no sometimes and at first I was concerned that maybe you wouldn’t ask me again, this fear was unfounded and it is important as we all agree to recognise that life and living well is about balance. I use three key ?s when being asked to do something – can I amke the date and the venue with support; what will be the impact of the commitment on myself and on Rosemary my wife; and what will be the positive impact of me being involved on the piece of work – if all are yes then I do it! and do it to the very best of my ability
Where? The Society has very little presence in East Kent. I can only think of two events I have been able to support – one in 2011 which was a Memory walk and one in 2015 which was an event at Canterbury Cathedral. I do though a lot of work for the Society in London, and with the support outlined this is very easy for me as Canterbury and London are now only 55 mins apart by train. I know the team at Devon House and I know I will be extremely well supported.
Finish with explaining about Welcome to our World –
£5000 Innovations grant from Lloyds Bank via Alz Soc – 2350 books published. In 11 months all sold or distributed (inc 130 at recent Alz Soc Dementia Friendly awards ceremony in London which Rosemary and I were honoured to attend.) Never been done before. Incredibly successful by way of impact. Read piece by fellow Ambassador Jo Brand.
Canterbury 28 Sept 2015
PS: Keith Oliver also has audio diary at http://www.onourradar.org/dementia/tag/Keith-Oliver
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