I realise that many people need a little time to ‘get over jet lag’, however it’s not just jet lag that gets me.
As many of you know, I live in Brisbane Australia. In August 2014, it took me 3 days to recover from a trip to Sydney (about one and a half hours flying time and in the same time zone); April 2015, it took me 3 weeks to recover from a trip to Perth (about 5 hours flying time and two hours behinds Brisbane…yes Australia is large); September 2015, it took me more than 10 weeks to recover from a trip to Spain (8 hours behind Brisbane time) although I not only had the travelling/ flying/ jet lag issue, I also had the physical exhaustion from my Camino Challenge and the emotional upheaval from the actions of ‘so called friends’ not recognising the extent of the type of support that I needed and dismissing a request for specific help.
So this time, for our trip to Europe for me to present at ADI Conference Budapest 2016, our ‘holiday’ was primarily planned to allow me time to recover from the trip from Australia pre-Conference, and afterwards in the hope that when I arrived home I might not ‘loose’ more than 10 weeks of living. And yes, it was a perfect opportunity to visit some places that we’d never seen. Even so, it was planned in a way, to stay for a week at a time in one place with days of doing little etc, instead of touring as many cities and sites nearby as possible or going from dawn to dusk getting in as much as possible.
Glenys, in consultation with me, also arranged for wheelchair assistance for the trip home when, for the previous 4 days, she noted things about my focus, visual disturbances, extreme tiredness, and communication as well as the usual problem solving and organisational issues, that signalled to her that I wasn’t managing as well as usual.
Our approach was that it was a trial for Rome Airport to see how I, as a reasonably young and very fit male would accept and possibly recognise any benefit in using wheelchair assistance. It was arranged at that stage for wheelchair and personal assistance all the way to Brisbane. And, I did notice a benefit. I relaxed into the wheelchair not feeling that I needed to be hyper-vigilant about which direction to go to the Gate, or about the time. These are things that Glenys had for some time taken responsibility for, but it was only now that we both realised that I also had been trying to step up to the mark and felt a responsibility to be involved. Even organising the suitcase onto to the weighing machine through the checkin process puts stress onto me to position it correctly.
Staff were extremely helpful and everything went smoothly in Rome. Also, the external stimuli, for example the noise and the large rushing crowds moving quickly at the Airport, didn’t overwhelm me as much as usual.
However, it was a different story in Dubai, because “you can walk”!!!
Initially we didn’t realise that “just walk up to the person carrier vehicle” meant, to walk 200 metres then to the monorail then another 200 metres to another person carrier vehicle, to then walk ….etc etc etc!!! AND we arrived at Dubai at 11.30 pm! so given that I’m usually in bed by about 8 pm, do you think I could cope with the thousands of people rushing everywhere or the uncertainty. So Glenys talked to me about whether I preferred the wheelchair or not….which I did, so she again requested one for Brisbane. The staff’s response was that “because he can walk he doesn’t need one.”
However they obviously reluctantly accepted the request because not long afterwards, literally at the last moment, they changed the boarding Gate from 7, to 27!! which in Dubai is not a short distance away. So into a wheelchair I went for the ‘excursion’, and we arrived, with my assistant wiping his brow, as they were about to close the Gate. But at least we physically made the plane.
In Brisbane, I told Glenys that I still needed the wheelchair. It was again said, “but you can walk can’t you?” and Glenys quietly mentioned why I needed it, despite my appearance and physical capability. After that, I received the support that I needed, and in addition, the personal assistant was very obliging all the way through Customs and Immigration to the Taxi rank.
I was in two minds about having to highlight that I have Dementia and my needs are not obvious to others, but then I balanced that with: in the end, I needed support, and anyway, maybe one of those people may be more aware, and not question the next fit person living with Younger Onset Dementia that comes into their lives.