Sue Strachan’s myth-busting mission began when she was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014. She wants The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes to give hope to others facing a dementia diagnosis.
I spent much of November and December last year filming a TV programme – The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes – along with 13 other people living with dementia. The point of the programme is to show that people living with dementia, of working age, can still work and still have something to offer society.
I was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014 after 19 months of tests. I spent some time in denial and believing 'they' had got it wrong. I then had a lightbulb moment thanks to a Dementia Adviser from Alzheimer's Society.
It became clear to me that I had two choices; continue to be depressed and give up, OR get on with my life and share my experiences.
I want to raise as much awareness as possible whilst I still can. There are so many myths around dementia that need busting and I see it as my mission!
My working life was very far removed from the restaurant. I left school in 1972 and worked for WH Smiths for eight years. I was a book department manager for six years, before leaving to become a Sales Rep for Ladybird Books. I was made redundant after 11 years and then spent the next 10 years repping for two major publishers.
The other volunteers at the restaurant were from very mixed backgrounds. They had all done a variety of jobs between them and all had different diagnoses of dementia. Together, we learned to open and run a restaurant in Bristol from scratch.
I found the filming and training for The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes quite hard initially. It became clear that I was one of the more able volunteers and, rather selfishly, I thought, 'hang on a minute I need all my strength for me, not to help others!' But as we got to know each other we became a real team and it was a pleasure to help each other out.
I made it clear I did not want to be in the kitchen so I was put on the bar and front of house. I loved both roles.
There were several occasions when we were able to make tiny adjustments to the way we worked to make it easier for us all. Making a list of tasks for setting up the restaurant before service, for example. Or little things, like labelling all the cutlery spaces so it was obvious which knives to use.
Lots of laughter
We had great fun making the programme. There was lots of laughter, often directed at each other. There were also tearful moments too. I have made some good friends from this experience.
I was humbled by some of my colleagues and the way they were coping and also a bit frightened by what they have to live with, things that will in time happen to me.
One message which I want to come through in the programmes is HOPE.
I had never spent time with others living with dementia before, but found we had so much to talk about – and not just the dementia and symptoms! We are all unique. When you have met one person with dementia, you really have just met one person with dementia.
More about The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes
Find out more about The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes, hear from the stars of the TV series and get support making your workplace dementia-friendly.