Following on from thinking about saying “Yes” more and taking more risks, I started to think about how dementia sufferes have to live in the moment. Memory loss ensures this. We seem to interpret this as a huge negative – and for others it may well be. But for the person concerned, if we can learn to value this and respond positively to it, how much better would their lives be?
Most of us are mindful of consequences – it's a good way to ensure survival – but have we moved past this to letting ourselves be inhibited in the present by always thinking ahead?
I was told possibly the most positive thing I have ever heard around dementia from the son of a lady with considerable memory loss. He said that, at first, visiting her in the safe home had been a huge trial. He and his wife had cared for mum for as long as they could but work and young children made this an impossibility. They felt guilty at “Giving up” but exhaustion was damaging them, their children and their relationship. The first visits were a nightmare of trying to talk, trying to keep a mother and son relationship alive. Then he realised, that was gone. It hurt but the next time he saw his Mum he just went with whatever she said. She was so much more relaxed and he began to see a lovely woman, not his Mum but a lovely person. A couple of visits later she told him it was great to talk to him because he was a good listener. She said that another man used to come but he was always thinking about other things and was never really interested in her. He did check with the carers but as he guessed, he was the only man visiting.
He said that learning from his Mum to stay with what is in front of you was a huge gift. It works for him as a father and as a manager.
We have to analyse and plan ahead but unless that is the purpose of our being with others, let's stay focused on the real people.
It all comes down to being with the living person you are with rather than the imaginary outcomes in your head.