Dementia is a diagnosis that, for many, brings a sense of despair and isolation. But within the Dementia Alliance International community, there are individuals like James McKillop who have not only defied the stereotypes surrounding dementia but have become inspirations to others. James, a longtime DAI member and co-host of our UK Support Group, has not let his diagnosis define him. Instead, he has used his journey to inspire and empower, both through activism and creative expression.
In 1999, the world had a limited understanding of dementia. People living with this diagnosis were often treated harshly, considered incapable, and denied the opportunity to live fulfilling lives. James experienced this firsthand at the time of his diagnosis when individuals with dementia were often misunderstood, mistreated, and stigmatized.
Support and Empowerment
James's story took a remarkable turn when Brenda, who was working for Alzheimer Scotland, came into his life. What started as a routine visit to complete a form for state benefits turned into a pivotal moment of hope. Brenda recognized something in James, something that needed nurturing. She offered him the chance to help at the Christmas Fair in George Square in Glasgow, and in doing so, she used her personal and official time to help reintegrate him into the world.
Brenda's support was instrumental in preventing James from going into a care home. With her encouragement, James began to demonstrate that even if some tasks from his past were now challenging, he could relearn old skills and even develop new creative talents.
James's creative journey continued to evolve under the guidance of Lorna from BOLD, an organization dedicated to supporting individuals with dementia. Lorna recognized James's latent talent for poetry, and under her mentorship, his poetic abilities flourished.
A Message of Hope and Resilience
James's journey serves as a beacon of hope for anyone facing a dementia diagnosis. He emphasizes that life doesn't end with such a diagnosis; it merely takes a different path. In response to the fear surrounding dementia in the UK, he created the song "Diff'rently The Same." Through this song, he aims to inspire others, to instill hope in their hearts, and to encourage them to defy the myths and stereotypes associated with dementia. One poignant line from the song beautifully encapsulates his perspective: "Doggedness enables me, to cope Diff’rently The Same."
A Tribute to Love
In addition to his other creative endeavors, James penned the song "I Still Love You" for his wife of 50 years, Maureen. This touching composition underscores the enduring power of love, transcending the boundaries of memory loss and showing that deep emotional connections persist even in the face of dementia.
'BOLD Creations': A Testament to Resilience
James's creative journey extends to the book "BOLD Creations: A Book of Creative Work by Dr. James McKillop." As a part of Cohort 6 of the BOLD Programme, Lorna Hill's guidance helped unearth James's poetic talent. This book, now with updated music included, serves as a testament to the resilience and creativity that can flourish even in the presence of dementia.
You can download the PDF here: /wp-content/uploads/James-McKillop-Booklet-October-2023-FINAL-with-updated-music.pdf
James McKillop's story is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human soul. He has not only defied the misconceptions and stigma surrounding dementia but has used his journey to inspire others to live their lives fully, regardless of their diagnosis. His activism, music, and poetry have allowed him to spread a message of hope, resilience, and love. James's journey is a reminder that, with a dementia diagnosis, one can still thrive and live "Diff'rently The Same."
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About DAI: Dementia Alliance International (DAI) is a non-profit group of people with dementia from around the world seeking to represent, support, and educate others living with the disease that it is possible to live more positively than advised with dementia. It is an organization that promotes a unified voice of strength, advocacy and support in the fight for individual autonomy, improved quality of life, and for the human and legal rights of all with dementia and their families.