Being a Friend in the Fray

Christmas is coming and despite the recent figures around decreased sales, the shops are in the usual throes of December mayhem. We fight our way through throngs of barging bodies, bands blaring carols, and endless charity chuggers wanting a minute of our attention. The hundreds of worthy causes present an agonising quandary as to which will benefit from our generosity. Perhaps we will think about this later; for now, we are all out with things to buy and even more to do. Once home, we flop on the sofa and browse social media, scrolling through a few pages before we find something that reminds us of what Christmas is about . Then we immerse ourselves in the soaps’ Christmas-themed storylines, although they are simply a reflection of society’s malice. The script writers don’t have to look far to find spite, not even at this time of year. After all this, it’s hard to know how to be a good person, let alone channel the spirit of goodwill and merriment. Eye4Detail has compiled a list of simple take-home messages from those who are often overlooked in the fray.

 

Consider the Impact of a noisy, flashy Christmas

 

The first of these is from Nottingham resident, Azza Booth. She suffers from epilepsy and has experienced four times as many seizures since her neighbourhood was decorated for Christmas. One of these occurred on a bus when driving past a house decorated with flashing lights. Her seizures have caused her serious injury in the past, and she is now afraid of going out at this time of year.

 

Whilst not creating the same strobe lighting effect, fireworks can cause distress to many residents. Sleeping children and petrified pets are examples of populations who aren’t keen on the late-night bangs. If you require further convincing, consider those who have fought for our country; they deserve a quiet Christmas, one that is free of the reminders of gunfire. There are many petitions calling for the ban of private firework displays. I would argue that lights in the house can twinkle freely and letting off the fireworks earlier in the day is far less problematic. The answer is to engage with those around you who might be affected by the extreme sights and sounds of your Christmas.

 

“Donate safe items to your local unit.”

 

 

The title Inside a Children’s Psychiatric Unit at Christmas doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an easy read. This blog post relates an experience that few know about with an honesty that keeps to the facts. It is well written with a sprigg of humour and ends with a simple message for readers to take away:

“Spare a thought this Christmas for those in CAMHS units and their families. If you can, donate safe items to your local unit. Chocolate and cake always go down a treat- and teddies, games or a good DVD! Just knowing that someone donated something out of kindness could make a patient’s day.”

 

Being a Friend

 

Last week I attended a course on being a friend. It was run by Dementia Friends, and aims to teach others to adopt a compassionate, understanding attitude towards people living with the condition. Most cases of Dementia are not formally diagnosed due to the stigma that still surrounds invisible illnesses, particularly those of the mind. People experience a gradual loss of memory, perception and inhibition. The course leader explained how someone might see a dark floor as a hole that could swallow them up, or patterns on furnishings as being live snakes. It can be difficult to understand a person’s reactions to seemingly normal things, such as their reluctance to enter certain places. People often regress to a former period of their life and are baffled by the complexities of such modernities as the electric kettle. The course leader told us about the case of an Indian patient, who came to the UK and learnt English in their thirties. Because they had regressed to their twenties, they could no longer speak English.

 

When memory fades, emotions remain. It’s common for relatives to become angry and upset that their loved one no longer recognises them. Although the Dementia sufferer may lose their memory of the incident a few minutes later, they remain troubled. It’s difficult for someone to explain their emotions if they can’t identify the source, which only adds to their distress. On the other hand, a relative who takes them out for a nice lunch will leave their loved one happy and content. They might not remember why they feel good, yet this does not trouble them. Because of this, professionals who care for people with Dementia have the person’s emotional well-being at the centre of their work. Initially, the idea that someone with Dementia should remain independent for as long as possible seems strange when it involves unearthing antiquated kettles and the like. Giving some Dementia sufferers dolls or stuffed toy animals is something that makes perfect sense when we consider how high their anxiety levels would be if they relived their time of parenthood and weren’t able to find their baby. And is it necessary to remind a person that their wife is dead when their grief will resurface long after they have forgotten the fact?

 

The course taught me a great deal about the importance of being compassionate to others. I have always thought that Christmas is about making memories so that we can look back and smile. Perhaps the most important part of the season is to create a warm, compassionate atmosphere of affection for those we love. When our Christmas memories fade, their emotion will remain.

 

Here’s wishing you a considerate, compassionate, generous and enjoyable Christmas.

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