By Joy Hinman
Health is wholeness and vitality of mind, body and spirit. But when mental illness strikes, it can be a tremendous challenge for both patient and caregiver.
Here is a story of a married couple, Marshall and Evelyn Bye. It’s a love story of 60 some years; they kept their partnership vital and rich with love, laughter and always enjoyed dancing! But during the past decade Evelyn was diagnosed with dementia. Even so, their good humour and laughter often helped them deal with the disease. Yet, during the last six months there had been no laughter or smiles. This was due to the antipsychotic medication Evelyn was under to manage severe symptoms of the disease. Marshall said, during that period, it felt like he was “losing the love of his life.” He continued giving love and encouragement, even though she did not respond.
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The most common treatment for many forms of dementia has long been antipsychotics. While the drugs may “manage” severe symptoms of the disease, too often it sedates the patient to the point of leaving them no quality of life. The individual’s character and identity appear to be lost.
But, recently, when told of the AHS pilot project –to reduce the use of powerful antipsychotics – Marshall took the bold leap into it with Evelyn; and they found music to be an effective alternate therapy. She was taken off the antipsychotic drugs and is doing fine! Marshall said that the change in his wife has been “remarkable.” She moves her hands to the music, remembering the words of some songs. She enjoys Marshall telling about their past world travels. What’s best is that the smiles, jokes and laughter are coming back.
The pilot project finishes at the end of February for evaluation. If the goals are realized some thousands of senior patients in care facilities will benefit from this program by March next year!
When people experience the loss of their ability to think for themselves, what might be needed for some patients isn’t simply a drug. Love might be a safer “medicine” – love of a spouse, a friend, a child. “Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return,” says Mary Baker Eddy, theologian and Christian healer. Unconditional love reminds us of the love of God. That’s the love that really heals. Marshall’s love for Evelyn and her response is a perfect example. And, no bad side effects!
Joy Hinman is a Christian Science practitioner and spokesperson for Christian Science in Alberta. She lives in Turner Valley.