Email is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, I get fed-up scrolling through an endless procession of marketing nonsense and badly spelt scams telling me that my computer is riddled with malware or I’ve won the Canadian lottery. Now and then, however, a gem of a piece of correspondence warms my heart.
At the end of April 2023, a letter from the Royal Voluntary Service arrived through my letterbox. I opened it out of curiosity because although I admire their work, I have had no direct contact with them. I was astonished and delighted to read that from 5,000 nominations, I had been awarded the prestigious title of Coronation Champion alongside 499 other volunteers!
The awards were designed by Her Majesty The Queen, as she and His Majesty The King were keen for the Coronation to recognise and reward those who go that extra mile in their communities. I received a specially designed badge and a certificate signed by their Majesties, King Charles and Queen Camilla.
The citation stated that, “During the pandemic, Pete put his IT skills to great use, co-producing 3 Nations Dementia Working Group webinars sharing tips for using IT and shining a light on critical issues for people living with dementia. While self-isolating, Pete filmed a video diary for a Channel 4 documentary, raising dementia awareness and challenging the myth that people with dementia were all in care homes”.
I love working with national and local charities to show people they can still be valuable and productive after a diagnosis of dementia (Alzheimer’s disease, in my case), but then, I’ve always volunteered. When I was in the RAF, my missus Pam and I were always busy running youth clubs and helping with various activities — it’s fun. And after a while, it becomes a way of life.
Locally, I volunteer at the Burton Latimer Heritage Centre and facilitate a Monday dementia group. I also present a course on the therapeutic benefits of clowning (yes, I am a clown! and laughter really is the best medicine), and I co-present another class, an introduction to dementia. I am also an independent member of Alzheimer’s Society’s Delivering Services Committee and an active member of the Young Dementia Network’s Understanding and Awareness workstream.
And recently, another wonderful email arrived in my inbox. It was from a PhD student I helped complete a research study two years ago after pairing up through the Join Dementia Research website. She has passed her PhD examination and will graduate in November 2023, and she wrote to thank me for the help and support I gave her. And that, in a nutshell, is the beauty of volunteering and engaging in research. What a privilege to help someone further their career and add a little to the knowledge around dementia that may one day provide solutions to some of the questions around diagnosis and prevention.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I know that my abilities will gradually decline. Indeed, I see the changes every day, but while I have the ability, I have a job to do. So, I am raising public awareness of dementia, fundraising, engaging in research projects and urging people to be alert to the early signs of dementia and seek a diagnosis as quickly as possible.
And, if you have a diagnosis of dementia or are caring for someone living with dementia, why not sign up with Join Dementia Research and get involved with one of the many interesting and diverse studies and projects that are always available? Or join a collaborative community like the Young Dementia Network or DEEP.
What better legacy to leave than playing a part in beating or raising awareness of dementia? And it’s interesting, often fun and you’ll meet great, dedicated and inspiring people.
Follow Peter Middleton’s Living with dementia blog here.