On Saturday 18th April, I attended a thought-provoking conference on Consent and Capacity- Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults (La Touche Training). As I drove home after the conference, I found myself reflecting on how fragile life is, and the importance of valuing the moment. In the midst of this process of deep and meaningful self-reflection (well not too deep, as I was driving at the time!), a frivolous thought jumped out at me…I must celebrate my right to be irrational! I need to rejoice in the fact that I can choose to do something which others think is crazy, irrational, unwise, stupid…you name it…and (within reason) no one has the right to stop me. (Thankfully I didn’t apply it literally to my driving situation, or this may have been a somewhat different blog entry).
In stark contrast, if my capacity to make decisions appeared to be in some way compromised, be it due to a aphasia, a communication problem following a stroke or head injury; cognitive problems associated with dementia; or a significant learning disability; those same choices could be judged as a sign that I was being irrational…setting off flashing lights that I was not safe to make my own decisions. And what then? Well, potentially, under the current law (the antiquated Lunacy Regulation Act, 1871) I could be made a ward of court, and lose the rights to make choices over my own affairs, with a representative acting in my ‘best interests’. Am I being melodramatic? Well, I’ll leave that up to you…but in any case, it’s my prerogative!
And so, to mark my freedom to make choices, be they wise, unwise, or otherwise, I’ll share the words of Jenny Joseph’s poem, ‘When I am old’,
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!