Skip to content


Every time I visit my parents (which is never often enough) I am aware of the privilege of having both my parents alive and well at the age of 53. (They are now 78 and 84). Married for 57 years, holding hands whenever they walk anywhere, not only because my Mum is a bit wobbly on her feet, they have done this since I have become aware of their presence. The manner in which My dad takes care of my Mum really amazes me. A mechanic, never one for fussing or being fussed over, he makes her tea the way she likes it, and helps her with patience and grace. And opens the car door for her every time they get in and out. Every night he makes them an egg on toast, and she gets a slice of toast with Peanut Butter and a cup of tea.

Today I visited the graves of my maternal grandparents. My Grandfather loved gardening, having spent his life in the Knysna forest. He knew how to cultivate Proteas, and for the last years of his life had the most wonderful vegetable garden. I sat on the side of their grave and pulled out all the weeds that were growing between the pebbles. An immense sadness wrapped itself around me. They were such an incredible part of my growing up. I spent almost every school holiday with them. I learned about cooking, milking a cow, slaughtering a chicken (which really freaked me out), and the importance of family. My Grandfather was kind, always soft and gentle. My Grandmother was funny, always making everyone laugh, told the most outrageous stories, recited things from her childhood and loved having a sneaky cigarette with me. Sitting on the side of their grave filled me with such gratitude. Being at home in my parent’s house makes me even more grateful for the fact that I am still someone’s child. That I can be looked at in a way that only a parent can look at you, be aware of unconditional love, of a bond that goes beyond anything else on earth.

Family dynamics play such an incredible role in our lives. Whilst many of us might have experienced our childhood as less than amazing, growing old gives us the opportunity to make amends and connect. I do believe that as we grow older we must try to get closer to our parents and siblings. Somehow I believe that we have chosen them for good reasons, that we are meant to learn from and grow with them. In the many years that I have listened to the stories of people living with dementia or memory loss, I have too often come to the conclusion that family dynamics can have an enormous impact on our ageing trajectory. (At one point I considered doing my PhD research on “The prevalence of dementia in dysfunctional families”). Most families have a dysfunctional streak, and mine is no exception. However, the lifelong battering of a wife or a toxic relationship that was endured for thirty or forty years can lead to a disconnect that presents with all the signs and symptoms of what would be considered ‘dementia’.

The generation of our parents has not had the privilege of marriage counselling, coaching or psychotherapy. They stuck it out. They put up with it. Maybe drank a bit too much, stayed at the golf club longer and longer, had an affair or just worked all hours. But they stuck it out. Then, when they are forced to retire and can no longer escape each other’s company so readily, the pawpaw hits the fan. The toxicity rises to the top like the frothy scum on sour milk. And one day, lo and behold, it starts bubbling and the lid shoots off, leaving a right royal mess. “My Dad hit my Mom in her face”, or “My Mom just lashed out at him with the kitchen knife”. And everyone is hysterical, blaming “the dementia”. Easy. After a few conversations and a bit of prodding, someone will let the cat out of the bag. The relationship was always toxic.

There was no love lost between them. Their marriage was always rocky.

One has to ask the question – is it “the dementia” that caused this behaviour or did the stress of the relationship cause “the dementia”? We are finely wired Beings, our Souls are intricately tuned to the perfection of nature. We are Connected to the cosmic rhythm, the ebb and ow of the tide, the waning and waxing of the moon, dawn and dusk and the coming and going of the seasons. We are not separate from this perfection. If our Souls are out of sync, if we are not in tune with the In nite Wisdom of the universe, things will go awry. And they do. The wiring in our Systems will be affected, and negative synaptic connections will in ame and eventually take their toll. We know enough about the brain now to know that it is not just beta-amyloid plaques and tau proteins that cause what we call dementia. We need to take care of our Minds, we need to protect our Minds from toxicity, not only of the chemical kind (which is by itself a huge threat to brain health) but also of the emotional and psychological kind. We need to detox from anger, resentment, hatred, jealousy and all other negative emotions for our brains to stay healthy. We need to grow new neurological pathways through meditative practices – walking, singing, meditating (in whatever form works for you), listening to classical music, spending quiet time in nature, and sleeping at least eight hours every night for hormones to be released that will restore us, and be with people who love us. This is essential, imperative, not negotiable if you want to save your Mind and keep your Soul intact.

A few days ago I wrote that it suits the scientific world to not acknowledge the Soul. In fact, it suits a lot of people, because if they had to acknowledge that every living thing had a Soul they would have to treat these living things with a bit more respect and dignity. I am now beginning to think more and more that it suits us to think that there is no cure for or cause of dementia, simply because it seems impossible to take responsibility for our own ageing. We travel far and wide, spend billions, and do the most ridiculous things to avoid simply acknowledging that we need to start honouring our Souls. Just that. And if we do that, we will be so much more mindful of what we eat, the stuff we put on our hair and skin, the cars we drive, the relationships we tolerate, and the friends we keep. (Do you ever think of the harmful ingredients in lipstick – especially if you kiss your kids with lipstick that contains lead? Or the shampoo or expensive cream that is not forced by law to reveal what ingredients are used to make it?) Yes, we can all become paranoid about this. Or we can start a different conversation, a Mindful one where we learn to respect our Selves. Where we honour our bodies and Minds and embark on a new journey of ageing. And where we honour our ancestors, our parents and grandparents, repairing relationships and healing wounds that will grow new neurological paths through neuro-plasticity, brain reserves that will enable us to grow old as independent, healthy people, contributing to the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *