What I learned today…

 

I have had the most amazing day – not only did I get to sit on The Angel of the North, I went to Fountains Abbey with my family and wandered round the beautiful ruins & gardens (if you haven’t been recently, it is worth the trip!).

I also attended the Agile Conference in Newcastle – this is an event for allied health professionals (AHP’s) (aka – physio, occupational, speech & language and other therapists who work alongside nurses and doctors).

This year’s conference was focused on Dementia.

I was talking about pain in dementia and also end of life care. I guess, when you are asked to such an event, this implies that you are an expert – please see recent blog.

I don’t regard myself an expert in either of these fields and indeed, I quite readily let myself off the hook by talking about who the experts are… the patients – the people living with dementia who have pain or who are approaching the end of their life, and, if not them, their families or carers – the loved ones who see them every day or who grew-up in their care and think about them when away.

I am really, just an outsider, a casual observer of those entrusted to the care of the staff on my ward.

I don’t want to go over the subject matter of the talks, although I have to say that this was the first time I have spoken to a room entirely filled with AHPs and it was a unique experience – I felt so welcomed, so at home, that I potentially could have lost myself.

No.

It was at the end when one of the delegates asked a question.

The question in itself was profound and I am frustrated at my response.

The question was also significant as it came from a physiotherapist I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years, when I was a doctor in training.

More to the point, and more significant, was not my what I reflect was my banal response, but the reply provided by Richard Coaten who presented before me. For those who haven’t met Richard – he is a Dance Music Psychotherapist working at South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust.

Richard is one of the most incredible, interesting and, fascinating people I have met. I think he is the only person alive whom I am able to recall the first moment I met him – such was the consequence of the encounter.

Not only did Richard manage to get an entire roomful of people up and shaking their arms and swaying to be-bop music in between my talks about pain and end of life care and dementia, it was his response to the question at the end of the talk that hit me.

The person, B_, who asked the question recounted the experiences she had in relation to the death of her father who had died with dementia. She and her father come from an Indian background and the concept of spirituality and reincarnation, the meaningfulness of life beyond the concrete was significant. She described her father’s struggles with nutrition and the doctors’ and nurses’ enthusiasm for medicalisation.

My response was that of a hospital doctor, with what I might consider blunted (?numbed) emotions.

Richard instead listened to what B_ said and understood and acknowledged and felt the emotion that was invested in her question. He saw that this was not just ‘a question’ – a search for information, but a significant communication, a sharing of learning, from the heart, from one person to a community of peers, all of whom had given-up their weekends to learn about ways to improve the care of people living with dementia in our society.

Thanks Richard, and thank goodness for AHPs!

 

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