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Another Two Weeks

So our lockdown has just been extended until the end of April. For many people, the biggest challenge will be that they run out of alcohol…

What does this mean for our Elders and Care Partners? Considering how many Elders have no children or relatives, or whose loved ones live abroad, it will be business as usual. In fact, the fact that some Care Partners are in lockdown with the Elders might result in stronger and closer relationships.

So many of the Elders never leave the Care Homes in any case, so for them, it will be business as usual. For the Elders living with dementia, the world will feel a lot more anxious, and it will most certainly affect them. How would we alleviate this anxiety?

In a session on mindfulness today I was again aware of the power of the Mind, and how easy it is to focus our intentions. Most people living with dementia have perfected the art of being in the present, in spite of popular belief that they all live in some long-ago memory world back in the 50s. Considering the prevalence of memory loss, this makes little sense. The constant efforts to “take them back” could be more distressing than soothing if they realise how much of their memories have disappeared.

I also think that it is often more our need to take them back. Perhaps, it is also our struggle with being in the present that makes it easier to go back to the past. People living with dementia often function very well in the present, if we can BE with them in the present. Having a meal, drinking tea, walking in the garden, or even just sitting quietly can be immensely reassuring. For them. And for us.

This is something incredibly valuable that people living with dementia can teach us – BEING. Just simply being. If we can let go of our need to DO, to entertain, and to be busy, we will discover the greatest gift from people living with dementia. Naomi Feil, the founder of Validation Therapy, talks about “centring yourself”. If you can really centre yourself, if you can BE with the person at that moment, not thinking of the past or what you still have to do, your stillness will be transfused.

We all have “monkey minds” – jumping from one thought to the next, chatting away on the internal dialogue at break-neck speed. Being in the presence of someone living with dementia can be such a gift if we open ourselves to it.

The next two weeks will not be easy for those caring for people living with dementia. Well, unless we can take on the challenge of being mindful. Try it! Be still. Centre yourself. Really look the person in the eye. Try to hold their gaze with intent. Think of them with kindness and compassion, honour them as your teacher, not your charge. Miracles will happen.

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