Why would a woman who is terrified of flying embark on an awfully big adventure which requires two flights one of 6 hours and one of 13 hours? This is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. With only 7 more sleeps until I jet off to Australia to undertake my Churchill Fellowship it’s a question that has bobbed up in my brain quite a bit – mostly at about 4.30am.
The real answer is that I need to find out stuff and I think one of the best places to do that are Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. As a doctoral researcher, I devoted every waking moment (when I wasn’t procrastinating over writing and staring out of the window) to understanding sexuality, intimacy and relationships affected by dementia. This pursuit gave me an understanding of older people’s relationships with or without dementia and how love, intimacy, sexuality remained important until end of life.
As I was being spat out from the PhD process, my son, affectionately known as Wonder Boy came of age. At 19 he was becoming increasingly interested in all things sexual. Wonder Boy has autism and it became apparent that his sexual and intimate expressions were largely regulated by his carers. Opportunities were offered or denied under the guise of best interests and whilst holding hands and a peck on the cheek were seen as cute, anything further was definitely not supported. It became clear to me that carers, however nice, bring their own judgements to bare.
At around this time too, I was becoming increasingly interested in the LGBTI community. How do we accommodate this community in older age care? What about the transgender community? I had heard of a project which was seeking to build and LGBTI specific care home and wanted to understand how this differed from any other care home. What were the needs of LGBTI community in older age and how could I help to make this information more accessible? I wanted to challenge some of those judgements that I know are still out there. I wanted to find out about projects which aim to do just that.
In a fit of confidence, aided by a glass of wine, I applied and was subsequently awarded a Churchill Fellowship. Being a carer means that my movements aren’t quite as free as others but I have the enduring support of my amazing partner, Wonder Boy and my two girls. I have little doubt that all my rules will be undone in my absence and that chips will be on the menu most nights, but I love them desperately for giving me the support to go.
So, this time next week, I will be somewhere in the sky heading to Adelaide – probably grabbing the hand of some poor unsuspecting stranger every time I hear an odd noise or we hit a bit of turbulence. I will blog as much as possible and if anyone would like to follow, retweet or contact me I would love to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org