I have worked with Keith Oliver since 2014 when we first met at what was to become the ALWAYs group, an advisory group for the IDEAL study. Keith is one of a growing collective of people who have publicly spoken about the realities of living with dementia. These experiences were recently shared in his book Dear Alzheimer’s which, in the form of a diary, describes his life post-diagnosis and his journey to adjusting to life with dementia. In the book each chapter concludes with a letter addressed to ‘Dear Alzheimer’s’. These are letters that Keith writes to the Alzheimer’s that ‘dwells in my brain’ (p.16), who is very much his adversary. In light of the current restrictions posed by COVID-19 Keith has written a new letter which highlights the importance of staying socially connected.
Receiving this letter may surprise you as I think it is fair to say that I expected my last communication with you to be in my book “Dear Alzheimer’s,” however, current times have caused me to sit down and pen this new epistle to you.
We all know that you have now recruited a new, insiduous ally into your invisible army of mayhem and grief, this being the coronavirus that is currently gripping ours and other nations. Let me say quite plainly to you, we have many more allies than you and ours are united to ensure that we stay as safe as possible so that neither you nor your wicked partner gain the ascendency. Our true friends and our caring communities are standing alongside us, assisted by technology that all of us are now embracing to combat you more confidently. This will grow and not diminish over coming weeks.
You have worked hard, and I recognise this to cause me and others to be affected adversely, to be worried, scared and anxious and for some your long established cousin depression has revisited. But the human spirit, humanity are resiliant and we will emerge stronger than you. We are told to socially distance – you are helping put these words into people’s minds, my advice is not to do this, but to stay physically distanced from others but socially connected. By doing this we will all emerge back into the light from this tunnel that we are all treading carefully along.
I sense this may not be my last letter written to you, and this one I am sharing not in a book but through other platforms to hopefully help others. We must protect our safety physically, mentally and psychologically because when your ally is defeated we will again resume our very best efforts, united against you “Dear Alzheimer’s”.
Your socially connected protagonist
Opening section written by Dr Catherine Quinn
We are now recruiting for the MSc Advanced Dementia Studies starting in September 2020