Its dementia awareness week and it also sees the launch of “Our Voices: the experiences of people ageing without children. Of all the many concerns people ageing without children have, what happens if they get dementia is one of the biggest, causes the most fear but also asks one of the most poignant questions; ‘Who will remember who I was when I don’t remember?’
” If I get dementia, who is going to tell the carers I don’t like sprouts and hate ‘East Enders’? No-one is going to know, are they? And I won’t be able to tell them.’
Each of us has our life story: the person we were, the person we are, the person we will be. Often these life stories are preserved in the people around us – family and friends. But if we don’t have a family, and our friends are getting older and dying, who will remain to tell our stories?
For people ageing without children, the awareness that there will be no one to do that leads to an immense feeling of loss, and lack of legacy.
Wonderful work has been done in the field of dementia by people living with dementia and their children, with the children helping to tell the story of their parents, and ensuring that they are seen by NHS and social care staff as people with a life history. Dementia is a particularly strong fear for people ageing without children.
Despite the high profile campaigns around dementia, people ageing without children have not featured in any debates or discussions. Initial conversations with organisations working in the field suggest that most contact with people with dementia is via carers and therefore that if someone does not have a carer, they are hard to reach and involve. People ageing without children present a real challenge in this area, but it is one that must be addressed.