Asking for help can be the start of something wonderful, by Gayle Harris

It is Day 11 of Dementia Awareness Month 2015, and Cafe Le Brain host and DAI member Gayle Harris has written an article for our members and supporters. That you Gayle for sharing your ideas.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 7.05.17 pmGayle writes: Over the last two years, since my diagnosis of Young Onset Lewy Body Dementia, I have learnt a great deal about the importance of advocacy.

The most important lesson I have learnt is that it starts with me.

With my focus being towards dementia friendly communities, I decided to see how dementia friendly the shops I attend regularly were.

As I have a support worker with me when I go out, I usually get her to complete tasks that I have difficulty with. I wanted to see if I could get the store keepers to assist me.

First stop was my local newsagent.

Every Thursday I buy a mega quick pick in Powerball. I do not have a registered lotto card, as I want to be one of those mystery winners.

As there are several staff members I asked to speak to the manager. This lady has served me on many occasions.

I explained to her that I have dementia, and was wondering if I gave her my name and what I wished to purchase each Thursday, and that I would pay by using Paywave, if she could keep that information somewhere behind the counter so that the staff could assist me if I gave them my name.

She replied “Not a problem, we do that for quite a few of our customers”

The following Thursday I went into the newsagency and a young girl served me, I just said my name, and after checking a list she said “one moment Gayle, just the Powerball today? I will just bring the eftpos machine over for you”

Next stop was a Subway sandwhich store. The young man serving began his spiel of foot long…what bread…toasted…at one hundred miles an hour. I advised him that I have dementia and asked him to slow down. He apologised and started over, he then asked the girl adding the salads to give me time to choose, which she did. These lovely young people are a credit to both their store and their parents. I doubt if they understood what dementia was but acknowledged my need for assistance nevertheless.

Things were looking good.

As I continued through my list of shopping, asking for help in areas that I would usually get my support worker to do for me, I realised that I had not been asking for help because I was scared of the reaction of the shop staff.

Not once was I made to feel stupid, or a nuisance, in fact when I go back to those places each week now, the staff smile and say hello.

Dementia friendly communities have to begin with us.

People living with dementia look ‘normal’ and we need to understand that people can’t read our minds. Asking for help can be hard, but it can also be the first step in building your own dementia friendly community.

Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Warm regards to all.

Gayle

Copyright: Gayle Harris