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Time for Dementia (Session 2)

On Monday, Peter and I took part in the second session of the Time for Dementia programme | Alzheimer's Society ( with the group of students from the University of Surrey. These students are all studying nursing and dementia and are, in many ways, the future of dementia care. The scheme, in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society, is an innovative one and will help shape the students’ minds and hopefully challenge any pre-conceived attitudes. As the saying goes, “when you’ve seen one person with dementia…you’ve only seen one person with dementia.”

As with session number one, it was expertly facilitated by Cherryll Hixon, the programme's Service User Involvement Officer. And, as with the first session, the students were receptive and asked some great questions.

One of the questions that I was asked was, “how long have you been supporting Peter?”

My answer surprised me but also got me thinking and proves that it’s always worth reflecting about the power of language. As Chomsky said, language shapes our thoughts and is powerful (this might be a paraphrase -it was a fair few years ago that I studied Chomsky!) So instead of my usual stock answer, I said, “I have been Peter’s friend for five years…”

Now obviously there is an element of support within that friendship but just being perceived as a support for Peter skews the nature of our relationship and doesn’t really do it justice at all. I see our relationship as friendship first, and as support second AND the support is reciprocal. Don’t forget I still cannot sort out the mechanics of my bike OR navigate routes in any meaningful way. I suppose the moral of this mini anecdote is “Time for Dementia” created a great learning opportunity for me too.

And as the students gave their feedback to Peter, Peter added his own perspective: “you,” he said, “are all inspirational – you all want to learn and you will be our future…”

We look forward to session number three which will focus on attitudes and stereotypes. I'm pretty sure Peter will have an awful lot to say about this!

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