I've been given plenty of advice in my 50 times around the sun.
Some of it useful, some not.
"Your job doesn't define you" is my current favourite.
"Will it matter in 10 years' time?" and "Don't believe everything you think" have helped me many a time.
"Passion means tears" is stuck on my computer at home.
But the one that has stuck with me the most is "they might not remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel".
A dear friend told me this when I started working with people with dementia. She had lots of experience in the industry and this advice was most helpful as I set about learning how to be an activities co-ordinator.
Laughter, movement and food were my stock in trades. While it's easy to assume people with dementia who can't be cared for at home any more struggle to get around, this isn't always so. Some of the residents were great walkers, fitter than me, and one was such a good dancer I'd get dizzy as he spun me around.
Saturday cooking gave the residents a chance to use skills that once came so naturally, such as cracking eggs or sifting flour. I have to be a tad careful here, but the sherbet-making session somehow descended into a scene reminiscent of doing lines of cocaine (not something I've ever done or recommend). It's at least four years since those shenanigans, but I can still hear the laughter.
I got good at giving hand massages, but I could never manage nail painting.
Roald Dahl's poem Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf came in handy many a time. It's not suitable for children, but would hold the residents' attention as the drama unfolded and I loved doing the actions.
She whips a pistol from her knickers. She aims it at the creature's head, And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
When the New Zealand Rural Games were on in The Square, I announced we were going to do coal shoving just like the competitors. Coal was impractical so we used buttons, and residents were timed as they scooped the buttons from one container to another.
I even managed to get an Olympic swimmer to visit and Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith.
No one wants to get dementia. No one wants a loved one to get dementia. But pretending it doesn't exist or acting like it is contagious isn't helping anyone.
We still have so much to learn about diseases of the brain, but what we can learn now is how to be a friend of people battling these conditions.
Alzheimers New Zealand has a free 20-30 minute programme on how to become a dementia friend on its website. You receive a certificate and either a badge or wrist band.
Dementia friends learn what it is like to live with dementia and make a commitment to action that will help people with dementia to live well.
It's about making New Zealand a kinder, more understanding, inclusive and supportive country.
The University of Tasmania's Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre runs free, massive open online courses on understanding dementia and preventing dementia. I recommend these for a more in-depth look.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that trigger a gradual loss of brain function. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, but there is also vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia.
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing.
I saw many sad things and challenging behaviours when I worked in the secure unit. Sitting waiting for her lunch at the laid table, a resident would pick up her knife and fork and ever so gracefully cut and eat the air.
But I also remember that woman's smile and touch.
Going through life with the belief people will remember how you made them feel is a great way to live your life.