I had a great talk last week with carers at Baillieston Community Care. They're a charity that's been providing services for people with dementia in the east end of Glasgow since 1992 - a cause close to my heart. They want to make sure that people with dementia can stay independent and in their own homes for as long as they can, as well as supporting carers and offering respite.
Something I really like about doing these talks is the way that, by getting carers to talk about what matters to them, you can start to see the tension in the room ease off. It's always high to start with, plus people get emotional when they talk about the difficult stuff (and sometimes the good stuff too). But because they've been able to chat about things and share what they think, it can really help them feel better. You just need a few chairs, perhaps a cuppa, and a group of people who want to talk.
The talking's important, but the letters are important too. I know how hard it is to sit down on your own (especially as a carer - time on your own is a rare thing!) and put things down in black and white. It's a big step, sharing that sort of information about yourself and the people you love. And I know a lot of people have wanted to write letters, but not got round to it yet. Thing is, I believe the letters will be what makes the difference. It's hard to share a story that's just been yours, or your family's, or your friends'. But if we share our stories, our experiences of what's good and what's not so good, then the people who make the big decisions about care and health and social work can read them. And if they read our stories, all our stories, then things can start to change - for the better.
If you send me a letter or an email, I will take it to the Parliament and it will be read. That's my promise. But I need the letters first.