A life lived well before dementia

“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it

She was born into a decent, honest and hard-working family.  A family that was neither rich nor poor; not blessed with an excess of good fortune but not unduly hard done-by either.  Just an average working family.

As far back as the mid 1700s her ancestors were a delightful mix of butchers and fishmongers, dressmakers and tailors, coal merchants and carpenters, tallow chandlers and umbrella makers.  With a few rogues along the way of course, two of whom served their sentences at Newgate Prison for minor misdemeanours.

So, you see, the most essential skills for survival ran through her bloodstream.  What more could she have asked for?  A coalfire to warm the living quarters, tailored clothes to wear, fresh food to eat while sat at a carefully crafted table, a light to read by and umbrellas galore to protect against the elements.  Umbrellas of protection; umbrellas with as many spokes as were needed to maintain that canopy of care.

More or less the Essential standards of quality and safety which made clear the outcomes her own family expected over centuries.  I’ve borrowed that phrase, of course, from our most esteemed (by some, but sadly not by me) regulator of care.  There’s one essential standard of quality and safety that she had, in abundance, that doesn’t seem to feature in today’s essential standards of care: basic common sense.  She inherited more than her full measure of that, and it kept her in good stead throughout her life, before dementia arrived and the need for caring care came into her life.  Honesty and decency coursed through her veins, alongside that basic common sense.  That’s three essential standards that seem to be missing from the caring care in the UK.

Her Dad was the first member of the family to benefit from an education.  He was the first on his side of the family to leave behind the umbrella making trade.  He became what today would be called an Insurance Executive – well, everyone’s an executive nowadays, but he was special.  “He was ever so clever, was my Dad” she used to say.  “He was ever so good with words.”  “There were no flies on my Dad!”  It was from her Mum and Dad that she took on such qualities that strengthened her backbone: she stood upright against all odds.

A happy childhood was enjoyed by all, with the usual gentle progress into adulthood being marred only by  World War II doing what WWII did to so many inner London families.  Then a working life in one of the trades of her ancestors, right through to her retirement.  Soon afterwards, she suddenly found herself living on her own.  But she coped.  She crumbled at first, as you do, but then picked herself up and put herself together again.  She’d played with the components of umbrellas as a child, so she knew how to reconstruct her own canopy.

Like so many of her generation, she worked hard, worked long, worked for every single thing she wanted in life.  She was never out of work and was never in receipt of benefits from the state; she had no debts and owed nothing.  She didn’t earn a fortune, but again, like so many of her generation, whatever she acquired, she gained through hard work and pride.  The pride she enjoyed was that she never needed to look over her shoulder.  She harmed nobody; she was gentle, decent, honest and solid.

Then dementia arrived just as she moved beyond her 80th birthday.

(To be continued)

“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it


Filed under care

3 responses to “A life lived well before dementia

  1. val

    When is the next instalment of this story, it has me gripped but I dread what I will read

  2. careintheuk

    Val, next instalment will happen when it happens, not immediately – just whenever I feel that I’ve found more energy to open my own umbrella. Whatever comes next will be absolutely honestly open and full of truth. That’s the way I was taught to be. So that which will fall out, once my umbrella opens, will be whatever has to fall from it.

    Don’t feel dread, unless it treads on your own corns of care, that is.

  3. Pingback: And then along came dementia | Care in the UK

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