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Let It Be

We do not have the answers to all of life’s questions. In fact, there is no one set of answers. As we are all unique individuals who grow old in unique ways, there cannot be one set of universal truths. What works for one, works for one. If you have met one person living with dementia, you have met one person living with dementia.

I read more and more about “the stages” of dementia – just yesterday someone wrote on a Support Group that her Mother is in stage seven!! Goodness me – really? What does this actually mean? Who created these stages? What are the de ning parameters of these stages? Is it not yet again a way of boxing people in, of trying to make sense of the complexity of trying to label and categorize? Finding a cure, a solution to “the problem”?

If we really and truly can embrace the lived experience of a person with cognitive impairment, we will honour them for who they are, how they are, and how they express themselves. We will meet them where they are, and not judge or measure them for how they “fall short” of OUR way of being in the world. We will make it our business to step outside of our own paradigm and step into their (wonder)world of being. It will require us not to judge, not to measure, not to compare. It will need us to let go of our perceptions and preconceived ideas. To look with different eyes and an altered gaze, respect, recognition, trust (Kitwood) to see this person for who they are and where they are…

Speaking at a conference last week an old friend said to me about my presentation – “you are very esoteric and philosophical”. Like it is a bad thing, he wanted me to “come back to earth”. For me, it is this very esoteric and philosophical approach that creates a framework through which and by which we can make sense of what we see. If our only framework is our OWN reality, we are constantly trying to squeeze people into our box. That way, we end up alienating people who dare to be different. We are so busy trying to figure out what is “wrong” with them, that we totally forget to see them for who they are, their battle to deal with our concrete thoughts and their sense of alienation. If we can step out of our contained space and enter their world in a loving, kind, compassionate and non-judging way, we might just meet the real person.

Letting go of our prejudice, our frames and perceptions and judgements, we will come to discover not a series of phases, but a journey of being. We will again see the person beyond the disease, the individual whose mind has changed. If we can change OUR minds to meet them where they are, we will connect in a way that we did not imagine possible. We will feel the presence, see the sacredness of the human spirit, discover the vulnerability and embrace the complexity of Being. When we stop trying to figure out the other person and enter into their world, it will change ours forever. It will open our hearts and our minds. It will give us the most precious gift of being One. And we will begin to understand that THEY are OUR teachers. They are holding up the mirror – be brave to take a long, hard look at yourself. Ask yourself what it is that you would want when your time comes. For, we are all on our way there…

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