World Health Day 2020: DAI Honours all nurses

It was World Health Day on 7 April 2020, and we celebrated the work of our nurses and midwives by reminding everyone of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy. Nurses and other health care professionals (HCPs) are at the forefront of the COVID-19 response.

Frankly, without nurses, there would be no response to the COVID pandemic; without them, our lives would not be as safe.

Many DAI members were also qualified nurses or health care professionals, and although they cannot contribute to the current health crisis as nurses, due to having retired, their work has continued on through DAI.

Determination, service to others, empathy and compassion are the trademarks of all nurses. DAI salutes and thanks you.

Below we have shared some of the stories of a number of retired nurses wo are also members of DAI, not only to help raise awareness of the work done by nurses and midwives, but to raise awareness of the important work done by members of Dementia Alliance International (DAI).

Please support our work at this important time.

Listen to DAI Chair, CEO and co founder Kate Swaffer, on being a nurse, volunteering for DAI, and why we need your support.

Image source: Kate Swaffer © 1987

By Kate Swaffer: As a proud retired nurse, who has worked in aged and dementia care, and then operating theatres, it is heartbreaking to see just how hard our nurses are working globally to support the whole world through the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is too often without adequate infection control measures available to keep THEM safe.

Many people with dementia who take on leadership roles in DAI were also nurses or other health care professionals. It seems to be innately who ‘we’ are: helping others. In my life as a nurse and also a volunteer, which I have been doing since my early teens, DAI is the most important volunteer role I have ever undertaken.

Although I work at least as many hours every week as most other CEO’s, very often more, but without the same funding or respect as them, it is truly worthwhile leading an organisation that is so proactively working to support others with dementia to live more positively, and to advocate for human rights and disability rights.

But DAI needs your help. Without donations or partnerships, DAI could not continue, as we are not a well funded organisation; on top of that, we  still have no paid staff.

Image source: Maria Turner © 2020

By Maria Turner: “Apart from my family, my nursing career was everything to me, and I was devastated having to give it up. I had to retire from my work as a registered nurse after 30 years, and although I had spent my life taking care of others, mostly in a critical care environment, and I am determined to not let my diagnosis change that. I have always been passionate about volunteering ever since I was 8 years old, and am still actively volunteering for the American Red Cross and for Dementia Alliance International.

Although I was diagnosed with FTD in 2016 at the age of 48 and with ALS shortly thereafter, I do live a full and positive life. I host weekly peer-to-peer support groups all over the world for DAI, and I am determined to help those who currently may not have as many resources as those of us who are attending this conference this week.

DAI and I want to see a stronger and more inclusive community by reaching out to those who are recently diagnosed so that we can emphasize the fact that we must plan for and be excited about our own futures even after a diagnosis.

If I can just walk alongside one person and prevent them from having to walk this path alone, I will know that I had a part in breaking down barriers and helping end the stigma a dementia diagnosis can and will bring.

  • Do not ever let dementia define you.
  • Life doesn’t end with a dementia diagnosis, a new life begins.

Maria’s son Rhys also said: ‘Through DAI, mum has been able to fulfill her goal of helping others by giving her a platform to talk to the newly diagnosed. Her responsibilities as a board member keep her sharp and focused. Peers have taken the place of her patients, and through the support groups, she is still helping so many other people.

This is in fact, why it is so important for people with dementia who were nurses to consider volunteering; whether it is at their local Red Cross or Church, or an organisation such as DAI.

It’s not just important it’s the fibre of our very beings.”

(includes excerpts from a speech given by Maria and Rhys at the ADI conference Chicago: Mother and Son)

Image source: Phyllis Fehr © 2020

By Phyllis Fehr: “As a person living with Alzhiemers and a former Intensive Care Unite (I.C.U.)  Nurse, I have always felt that this was a hidden and never talked about disease. When I was diagnosed I felt it was my new lease on life to change this so that other people living with dementia didn’t have to hide that they could have a voice and that we have support in each other.

During this time of COVID-19 it is never been more apparent to me that we need extra support. We all know what isolation feels like and to have this added burden of having to be isolated and not leave the house it’s very difficult, it’s a different kind of isolation. So I felt it highly important that we try and help people Living with Alzheimer’s and dementia to not feel so isolated, not feel so alone and to feel supported.

In my years of being a D.A.I. member the camaraderie and learning experiences that we have amongst us is absolutely phenomenal it helps me to get through my day-to-day life.

D.A.I. offers online peer to peer support groups. We learn from each other, we learn how to cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with dementia. We help each other to stay uplifted, we support each other in times of need and there’s no bigger need them at the present. So D.A.I. chose to add extra support groups during this time.  I think it’s been wonderful rather than having a once a week meeting we get together twice a week.

We help each other by saying what we’re doing to cope, so that others see that there still are ways to see your grandchildren even though they’re not in front of you. We discussed ways of helping us deal with our stress and anxiety over all of what’s happening and without these groups I don’t know if I personally  would be able to cope.

With my nursing background I know what is going on, I know how sick people are and I fear for other people who may get this disease. I also know that people with any type of dementia including Alzheimer’s are more vulnerable at this time and worry about getting this disease, so if we get any form of illness we all decline a little bit more and we’re all worried that if we get this where would we be.”

Image souce: Agnes Houston

By Agnes Houston: “I feel I was given a diagnosis and could either sink into the corner and be ‘done to’ or take control of my life. I feel like I am leaving a legacy for others so they can stand up and be a citizen, not a victim.” (extract from an interview for Elder Magazine, Seizing control of dementia)

Image source: Tracey Shorthouse

By Tracey Shorthouse: “Tracey, a retired nurse, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) when she was in her mid-forties. Tracey is determined to keep her mind and her body active during the coronavirus pandemic with a variety of activities and hobbies at home…. In the old days, when I was a nurse, I used to use Davina McCall’s workout DVDs in a way to keep fit. She really inspired me. And I have started to do that again as it’s so important to keep my body moving.” (extract from the Alzheimers Society UK blog, ‘Life during lockdown’)

It is indeed important to keep moving at this time, and we recommend you contact your local gymnasiums, exercise physiologists, pilates or yoga instructors or other providers including physiotherapists, and ask if they have online group. Many are currently providing online telehealth visits like this for free.

Thank you for honouring nurses and midwives with us, and for your support.

We sincerely hope you will support DAI by donating or partnering with us. Thank you.