In 1951 I became a Girl Guide in England. In our pockets we had to carry: pencil and paper, clean handkerchief, safety pins (to convert our scarf into a sling or bandage), two pennies for a phone call. All these were to make us useful in emergencies – Be Prepared!
With Mild Cognitive Impairment and the prospect of dementia in a few years, I have to be prepared in a different way. What are the things that are my true necessities, that will help me hold on to my vital self when the structures of life seem to crumble around me?
I’ve started a little notebook headed ‘Wishes’ (in case I don’t remember what I want).
Here are a few of my necessities, not in order of priority. The first entry reads:
“My prime wish is that you address the functioning part of my brain, and give me the benefit of the doubt; i.e. assume that I know what I’m talking about, that I mean what I say, that I am going to do what I have arranged to do or said I will do. If it’s clear that one or more of these isn’t happening, I respond best to queries, such as ‘Did you mean Tuesday?’ I become resentful if you try to tell me what’s going on in my head.”
I would like to have books around me. Writing materials are important, along with privacy for what I have written, and access to the internet as long as possible. My close family are overseas; I need to keep in touch with them, by whatever technology works at the time.
Walking helps my body, brain and soul. Give me the opportunity to walk for as long and as far as possible, in natural surroundings if accessible, and on my own if I choose to and it remains safe. The bush, birds and flowing water calm and inspire me.
Gardening heals things, even the uninspiring tasks like weeding. I hope for the opportunity to grow and tend plants, and always to have plants around me, indoors even if I can’t be outside.
I would like access to classical music and to the means to play it, and prefer to choose what I hear. Don’t assume that because I was a teenager in the 1950s I have to be fed a diet of rock & roll, or that because I’m old I need to be sat in front of a television. Intelligent radio such as the current RNZ National and Concert is another necessity.
It feels important to choose what clothes I wear, unless my choice is dangerous to health or indecent.
Make sure I have my glasses for close work, and hearing aids if I come to need them.
I need fresh fruit and vegetables. I don’t need the company of a robotic seal.
I will be lost without opportunities to practice my Quaker faith, in particular to join in worship. If my behaviour begins to disrupt worship for others intolerably, I hope some Friends can meet with me at times in private.
I guess I will also need people to spend time with me as a person, not as a doll.