Touchstone | Being Human Conversations

Last week, we took our ‘Being Human’ conversations to Touchstone Bme Dementia Service. There we chatted with 15 people living with dementia and their carers from the South Asian dementia café. The cafe is at Touchstone, run by Touchstone dementia service is called Hamari Yaadain which means ‘Our memories’. Now what struck me immediately was the sense of community amongst the people in the group. They were very caring of one another, really kind and accommodating towards one another. They listened and enjoyed each other. There were lots of smiles.

I love the sounds of people talking in languages I can not speak. I get a sense of what is being said because of the gestures and facial expressions but don’t of course actually know any of the words. And this happened a lot through the session – some translating into punjabi, and also a number of moments where the conversation broke away from the english and back into native tongue.

Some of our questions are idiomatic and so as second language English speakers, people answered very literally. This was really interesting. Questions like ‘do you count?’ took on a whole new meaning, from counting sheep to go to sleep, to money and even garlic bulbs.

One of the things that worked really well was the opportunity to reflect on the change in role for some of the carers, who may have previously not been as independent or used to taking the lead role.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the questions picked and answers given on the day.

What’s your favourite food? Fish or chicken and Chips, Curry and Rice, Vegetables, best is home cooked food. In the end though, most people agreed the very favourite food was chappatti’s as they go with everything.

Have you ever been stung? Most people in the group had been stung. 

Have you ever locked yourself out?Many times….examples given were keys in car doors left overnight in the drive, and keys in house front doors. One particular story was about a time when someone went away to Sri Lanka and their postman found their keys hanging there in the front door lock. Luckily he knew there sister very well Gand she lived close by. So he gave the keys to her. Notably, it was very close to April the 1st( also known as April fools day) and so their sisters family decided to ring them in Sri Lanka and ask them where their keys were. Of course, they panicked about the lost keys until they were  told that the keys were safe. Yes many stories of lost keys.

What is your favourite word? Well, love and thank you were the resounding favourite words. ‘Sat Sri Akaal’ meaning Welcome or more accurate translation might be ‘Bless you’ and ‘hello’. The other word mentioned was ‘kuch nahi’ which is a punjabi words meaning ‘say nothing’ (as the politicians do).

What is normal? Normal is when I feel ok. Sleeping and eating are normal activities. 

What stops you in your tracks?The pink sky. Seeing the Moon, which is stunning when it is really full and big. When a car nearly ran me over. The dark.

When do you count? Well, I didn’t have to buy any garlic for a year, so that’s what I count. I count how many to place in rows. I count sheep backwards from a 100 to go to sleep. When I get my money from the bank. I have this habit of counting up to eight on my fingers then reverse counting it back down. I don’t know where that habit came from but I often do that.

How do we make things better? Philosophising. Kindness. Listening. Helping each other. Caring. Slowing down. Coming here to Touchstone.

What would you do if you had no fear? Go sky diving. Many people scared of heights and snakes. we decided it was sensible to keep ones fear of snakes. We reflected that being afraid of heights seems to come for some as they get older. One person would change nothing if i had no fear – ‘I’m not afraid of anything’. Swimming (I’m afraid of the water) . Walking alone at night.

“Quotes…” that we picked.

You don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make you.– That’s true. It can be the making of you. You learn through making mistakes. Absolutely, you have to fail to learn.

Peace begins when the people with the most power listen to those with the least. – Everyone agreed with this and it made us quietly reflective.

You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. Before my husband got dementia, he did everything…the finances, the driving. But now I am the one that does everything. So its really true that you find out how strong you are when strength is your only option. And I have so much inner strength that I really didn’t know I had. The other week I even drove to London and I even had to drive through the Blackwall tunnel and I did it. Achieving things like that give me so much confidence.

If you think this group would fit for you, a friend or family member then get in touch with Touchstone by clicking here. For more about the game contact tea and tolerance on our website or email hello@teaandtolerance.com

This project is part of a ‘try and test’ project of @teaandtolerance thanks to generous support from Time to Shine @LeedsTTS Get in touch to find out more or how to get involved with the ‘Being Human’ game.

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