By David Jolley

This has been a week of carols. On Tuesday Dementia Conversations celebrated a Christmas party at Bowdon Vale – in the Methodist chapel school room where we meet each month. We gave time to welcome a new patient/carer couple and to review the thoughts and experiences of others in these weeks. We find still that the process of assessment and diagnosis can take time, include frustrations and bewilderment, that arranging sensitive, flexible care at home is an art form which can be learned, that communication between carers and a person with dementia – both ways – is not easy, and that, when all else is exhausted, placement in a good care home is a blessing. There is an uncomfortable worry that this is happening too often via a crisis and necessitating use of the Mental Health Act. Shared festive food and continued discussion gave way to carols of our choosing and where we sat, to a guitar accompaniment.

Thursday afternoon at Bowdon Vale celebrated Christmas with the Pop In – which weekly offers time and space and modest refreshments to anyone who want to pop in, especially older people and others with vulnerabilities. This special week we began in the chapel itself, to sing six popular carols to an organ accompaniment. Most of those who came along do not worship regularly, but we made a fine noise and warmed in the arms of the chapel pews and the small space which has known all this for 130 years. Then there was time for food and fellowship in the school room.

Sunday found us singing Carols on the Park – about 300 people of all ages – but a heavy presence of juniors with mums, dads, grandparents and all. Just an hour – and giving thanks that the temperature was bearable, the wind calmed and the rain waiting until we had finished and most people had gone home. We heard the Christmas story through short readings. We reflected sadly on the extremes of poverty and homelessness. We sang carols led by a marvellous band and singers – but we all joined in with gusto. ‘Away in a Manger’ was led impromptu by small children who gathered around the microphone with natural confidence – and knowing all the words!

Not rocket science – But a sort of magic – A continuity across communities, across the generations and the years. A source of comfort and hope.

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