Seeing through the veil of dementia – with love
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research notes that January marks Alzheimer Awareness Month. In its release this month it notes that one of the major challenges families face when they receive the diagnosis, is the stigma associated with it. In fact, according to a recent poll by Alzheimer’s Disease International, 40 per cent of people with dementia reported they had been avoided or treated differently after diagnosis. This January during Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society Canada is launching a nation-wide campaign called “See me, not my disease. Let’s talk about dementia.”
For those caring for a family member with dementia, and those who are experiencing it, every day can be a struggle of isolation, grief, sadness and frustration. Clearly we are needing to learn better ways to see and connect with those who are no longer communicating in usually accepted ways. This loss of communication with loved ones has the tendency to make many of us feel helpless and uncomfortable, and then comes the next stage – avoidance – “I don’t want to talk about it.”
But new ways of connecting with those suffering from this illness is proving that not only is it possible to see through this “disease label” to the original and true beauty of an individual, but that the truth of who they are is still there. This discovery also teaches us that there are any more ways to connect with someone than the traditional ways we are used to and comfortable with.
In the USA, the non-profit foundation, Music & Memory, has been placing iPods in nursing homes across the country, and the results have been startling. Not only is music far more effective than drug therapies, but much cheaper too. At a cost of just $80 for an iPod, music has been found to have a powerful stimulus on dementia patients, rousing some who have been unresponsive for years into animated conversations and activity. Where before these patients were thought to be utterly beyond hope, suddenly they are communicating. When Henry, one of the patients in the project was asked – “What does music do to you?” Henry responded, “It gives me the feeling of Love . . . I feel the band of love, of dreams.”
You can read the article and see a clip of the documentary HERE
One of the participants in the documentary, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Neurologist and best selling author, asserts that “music can do things that [human] language can’t.”
So maybe we need to be thinking in terms of how we connect, beyond the normal parameters of conversation. By taking this thought further to the love that Henry talks about, perhaps we could consider the powerful and healing effect that spiritual love can have on an individual. Love that has its source in God, crosses all boundaries, breaks through barriers and labels, and brings healing through many avenues, including music, laughter and compassion. It connects us.
I truly feel that this deep, spiritual love was at the heart of Jesus’ healing ministry. It enabled him to see past the labels, right through to the unimpaired integrity of the man or woman he was speaking with, and this connection brought healing in every case. For example, Jesus visited a man who everyone feared and who had been labeled as insane. He was called “Legion” because it seems he had many different mental issues, called “devils.” He was consigned to live in isolation, deserted and feared by family and friends. Jesus spoke with him in such a way that the man remembered who he was, and his friends found him “clothed and in his right mind.” (Mark 5)
To me, this spiritual language, deep within every one of us, and demonstrated so clearly by Jesus, leads us to an understanding of our innate spiritual connectedness that can never be forgotten. It has the power to awaken new ideas about mankind, and reminds us to not forget who we are, or who our neighbor is. It is a step in rediscovering the true art of communication that has no language barriers of race, country or culture.
Anna Bowness-Park is a Christian Science practitioner and a blogger, who writes frequently on the relationship between health and prayer. She is the Christian Science media liaison for British Columbia. You can find her contact info on the Contact Us page.