I would like to share this true story with you about my dear friend John. When I first met John he was in his late 70’s, he was physically unwell, and was waiting for a heart bypass. He had a very easy-going nature and was a man of principles. The heart bypass was successful but there was no operation for hardening of the arteries to the brain. John smoked heavy most of his life and held a sedentary job. This might have contributed to the hardening of the arteries to John’s brain. From this John was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Many years ago I worked and was in charge of a mixed Psychiatric Geriatric wing, working with Alzheimer’s, Senile Dementia and Syphilis. Some of the residents were old sailors and when young some contracted syphilis, some never had the syphilis treated. ( Years ago Syphilis left untreated lays dormant, and can attack the brain when older, today there is a cure)
To provoke a memory and a happy thought, I would play Glen Miller LP’s and sing other songs from that era like, “Knees up mother brown” “There be Blue bird over the white cliffs of Dover” Encourage them to sing along, this led to wonderful storytelling. I included short strolls and craft making. The persons dignity, well-being, and the relationship with the family and friends was paramount.
(In my opinion to sit an elderly person, a baby, or child in front of a television all day as a form of stimulation, is abhorrent. It is form of abuse and does not do anything for the individuals well-being)
I had a vast amount of experience working with John regarding his Alzheimer’s. I would visit John at his home and opposite his house were two large copper beech trees, and in the summer sunlight, they shone like bronze, in the autumn the tree became a red tarnished beauty, in winter stark, bare black branches. John would notice a single Jackdaw sat on top of the tree, this made him feel sad, and would often say. “That poor bird needs mate”. We would laugh and say we will have to find him a wife. I would take John out in the car, and to the many country parks that were dotted about. He would tell me many family stories. We would call in a cafe for a pot of tea and we would people watch. He loved children they fascinated him. Then we would survey the surrounding beauty, the trees, bird life and the sky. We made shapes with the clouds and we would laugh. John became child like in his wonderment of nature and he became a good teacher for me. I worked with John for four wonderful years. John died in a care home, the very thing that he feared.
Open space beauty & Jackdaws
Where I live my house faces east and west I see a sun rise and a sunset. I live on the edge of an open space beauty called Gelligear and Merthyr Common. I am a keen walker and I walk this area often, and in all weathers. Gelligear and Merthyr Common and the surrounding beauty that nature holds, has inspired a lot of my poetry.
Since John passed on, the jackdaw has found a mate and has made a family. I can see the copper beech tree from my house and the park too. I wait for the “Tchack” sound then the gathering that leads to a wonderful display, of ink black on steel grey, breathing in and out. Shape changers in the sky. Sometimes their shape are like ‘runes’ in the sky and I think on John and our friendship and is this a message, and then I smile.
The flocks are larger, because during the autumn and winter months they join up with rooks and Carrion Crows. Still the elastic display is mesmerising and I do like the way they all sit on the roofs of the houses in my street and houses opposite, then swoop into a feathery cascade. I find comfort in these wonderful clever birds. In my research I found out this. Although wild birds are protected under ‘Wildlife Countryside Act 1981’ Jackdaws may be killed under a general licence provision by authorised persons.
Mental Health and if we tolerate this then our children will be next.
My concern today is not Alzheimer’s or Senile Dementia but the young who smoke cannabis and Skunk. The way it is freely smoked outdoors, at train stations, bus stops and parks, hoods up, bone thin face etched in despair. I have a family member who regularly smoked Skunk she is now a schizophrenic and is on medication for life. Treatment for this addiction is a massive drain on the NHS.
However I am for cannabis being used for medicinal purposes but not for dulling the senses, messing about with the brain, by taking reasoning and your free-will away from you. Yes, we talk back to the opium days, the Gin dens, psychedelic years. Skunk is a real ticking time bomb waiting to go off and when it blows lookout.