Pet Peeves

Today I’m talking with Anna Schneider about her pet peeves and how we can go about changing them to improve everyone’s lives. 

To hear more from Anna head to her show ‘Who Do You Want To Wipe Your Bum?’ on the 5th August.

What is your professional pet peeve? 

My professional pet peeve is bad communication around important health topics. Oftentimes, taboos around our bodies and our own vulnerability keep us from thinking aloud about what we would want and need if we fell ill. This lack of communication can happen within us (not wanting to even think about it), just as it can happen between us and our loved ones. Moreover, it can also affect the help and advice we receive from health and care professionals, who are only humans that find talking about difficult topics as hard as anyone.

Can you give some examples?

Imagine your colleagues point out to you that you make more and more mistakes. You file things incorrectly, you forget about meetings. Eventually, you go to your GP, and after several tests, early onset dementia is diagnosed. Naturally, you and your family are distraught and start researching what you can do to maintain your mind’s abilities as long as you can.

Why is this a problem?

Your reaction is perfectly normal and there’s nothing wrong with any of these steps. But this imaginary you is not acknowledging the whole picture: that dementia ultimately is a life-limiting illness and you will need care. Dementia is, from a certain perspective, even a ‘polite’ illness, because it does provide you with early warning signs. While it robs you of precious years of your life, and it will eventually rob you of your identity (and most people would argue your dignity), it does give you time to realise what is happening. You thus have the chance to come to terms with your loss of ‘functionality’ and make arrangements for your care. The problem is how hard many of us find it to accept the true impact of their illness, even more so when we are still young.

How can we change things?

That’s a big question to which we can come up with many different answers, all of which may address parts of the bigger problem: badly paid carers, understaffed care facilities, no clear instructions where you want to spend the end of your life, how you want your care to be conducted, who do you want to make choices about your care when you no longer can, and many more aspects.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Fringe Festival?

I enjoy the spontaneity at the Fringe – just following recommendations by friends, seeing a fun poster and letting that make your decision for you, sitting in the meadows and being offered a free ticket! That said, the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas has a good line up – I think I’ll go and learn how we should ‘Abolish Childhood’ and ‘Stop Making Sense’. I’ll also be on the lookout for puppet shows for adults – I’m still sad that I missed the late night Muppets show a few years ago!