Guide Touch the Spirit: Connecting to the Inner World of Dementia

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Seek regular respite care. You cannot do it all alone. Ask other family members, friends, or members of your place of worship for help with respite care so you can get a much needed break. You can also seek help from volunteer organizations, support groups, day care programs, and residential respite care facilities. Schedule frequent breaks throughout the day, take time out to pursue hobbies and interests, and stay on top of your own health needs.

Get moving. Regular exercise not only keeps you fit, it releases endorphins that can really boost your mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Take a walk or jog outside, dance to your favorite music, work out to an exercise DVD, or cycle to the store. Taking a group exercise class or working out with friends can give you a valuable social outlet as well.

Talk to someone. The simple act of talking face-to-face with someone who cares can be extremely cathartic. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond.

Living with Dementia: A journey to the inner self - An Interview with Christine Bryden - JKP Blog

Take time to play. Join an online scrabble tournament, practice your golf swing, or play with a pet. Try something new. With just a few minutes of practice each day, you can flex mental muscle and relieve harmful stress. See the funny side. Humor is a well-known antidote to stress, sadness, illness, and boredom. Give yourself permission to chuckle at the absurdities you and your loved one experience, and surround yourself with laughter. Instead of heavy dramas on TV or video, go for a hearty belly laugh by watching episodes of your favorite sitcom.

Your infectious good mood can help replenish your inner resources and sooth your loved one. At each new stage of the disease, you have to alter your expectations about what your loved one is capable of. By accepting each new reality and taking time to reflect on these changes, you can better cope with the emotional loss, and deepen the feelings of satisfaction and love in your role as caretaker.

Keep a daily journal to record and reflect on your experiences. By journaling your thoughts, you can mourn losses, celebrate successes, and look for those thought patterns that keep you from acting in the present. Count your blessings. A daily gratitude list can chase away the blues and let you focus on what your loved one is still capable of, rather than the abilities he or she has lost.

Celebrate what is possible. Your loved one still has many abilities. Structure activities to invite participation on whatever level is possible, and you will both find real enjoyment. By valuing what your loved one is able to give, you can find satisfaction on even the toughest days. Practice relaxation techniques.

Living with Dementia: A journey to the inner self – An Interview with Christine Bryden

Meditation, deep breathing, visualization, mindfulness, yoga, or rhythmic exercise can calm, restore, and promote happiness. But only as long as nothing distracted him. For when the phone rang, jarring us apart, it broke more than just the silence. Mr Schecter would trundle off to the desk in the hall while I went to my room to give him some privacy. These disruptions, when I abruptly disappeared from his consciousness, never failed to shock me. Each time he hugged me or visibly relaxed when I found his keys, I felt recharged by his sincerity and affection.

But each time he forgot our conversations or what I had done for him, the same hurt and disbelief welled up inside me. Only gradually did I begin to comprehend that my own healthy brain was as incapable of adjusting to him as his brain was to me. An insidious paradox works against understanding dementia. The rules that guide a normal memory make it nearly impossible to accept memory loss in others. The very idea of memory loss is counterintuitive. Even when we know that dementia is mercilessly erasing experiences, we still feel that its victims are capable of keeping emotional tabs on their relationships, since those bonds were formed gradually over time.

Because I remembered, I derived meaning from our encounters, while he, who soon forgot everything, could not. Although I spent a great deal of time with Mr Schecter, he in his reality did not spend time with me — which is why each of us, in a very different way, ended up living alone in his apartment in the Bronx. L ike many refugees, Mr Schecter held fast to his European heritage, making few accommodations to his new home. But now that he had stopped going to work, he began to fixate on things he could control.


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Aside from repeatedly calling his son, he channelled his energy into rearranging the food in the fridge or fiddling with the electric fixtures and lamps. Sam: Stop trying to fix the lamp in your room. Sam: You mess around with the lamp and the wiring. Mr Schecter: agitated : I never touch the wires.

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What wires have I touched? Just do as I say. Mr Schecter: When do I argue with you? Sam: You always argue with me.


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  • Mr Schecter: No one ever said I give anyone trouble. Mr Schecter: How? How am I giving you trouble? Mr Schecter: worried : I promise. Sam: OK. What lamp?

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    Sam: Goddammit, stop arguing with me! Mr Schecter: When do I ever argue with you? One of the cruellest aspects of dementia — one that guidebooks are loth to mention — is that its symptoms often recapitulate a laundry list of aggravating behaviours that have always marked a familial relationship. For Sam, the behaviours that had nettled him when his father was 60 irritated him no less now that his father was almost Dementia was simply another reason to find his father deficient.

    To help Sam over this hurdle, I showed him pictures of the dementia brain, with the hippocampus pitifully shrunken to half its normal size. Staring at the coloured images of the healthy versus the diseased brain, Sam looked appropriately sombre. Here was visual evidence that his father was no longer the person that Sam had been fighting for decades, no longer someone responsible for his emotional outbursts. Yet only an hour after Sam had viewed these photographs, he and his father were shouting at each other again. S adly, it is only when dementia truly overwhelms people, when they can no longer function and protect themselves, that we finally see the condition for what it is.

    One night, when Sam slept over, he looked up to find his father reaching for the phone. For a moment, Sam seemed stunned. Then he walked over to his father and gently hung up the phone. At last, he realised that something was happening that had nothing to do with the dramas of family life. His father had travelled someplace where Sam could not follow, a departure that Sam had to accept if he was going to help his father and himself deal with the disease.

    But the next day, when Mr Schecter went to the kitchen to rearrange the food in the fridge for the th time, the father-and-son skirmishing started up again. During the day, however, his illness was more capable of deceiving people. Since Mr Schecter had lived in the same building for some 45 years, many people greeted him warmly. Such moments are seductive precisely because they make us think that dementia is just a phase, that its victims may one day be capable of commiserating with us about their affliction.


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    Because of such moments, caregivers teeter between hope and despair. These are the months, or more often the years, when caregivers live in perpetual crisis. Such is the deviousness of dementia: its ability to keep hope alive while its symptoms signify only futility.

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    As long as his father seemed like himself, Sam could continue to argue with him. As long as they kept fighting and as long as Sam clung to that familiar futility, it felt as though nothing had changed. Dementia itself is partially responsible for this. Not only does it allow them to be mindful and fully present, but it benefits their mental health as well as:. In an article by the University of Minnesota , they state that lives can be improved by being a part of a spiritual community.

    There are also other ways to take advantage of spirituality and reap the benefits of wellness, all of which can be done in a group or alone. We also have yoga and tai chi classes to help dementia residents focus on mindfulness, and music and art therapy are also available to connect our residents with what matters to them. Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program is for our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence.

    For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista , our specialized, comprehensive memory care residence. Our dedication to total wellness — for mind, body and spirit — is woven into our culture every day.

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    Skip to main content. They can then begin to focus on their surrounding. By focusing on their senses and the sensations of the air or sun, it removes them from their own mind and allows them to be present and aware of their surroundings and their body. Try holistic therapies. Therapies such as art, music, pet or reminiscence can help to reduce agitation in those with dementia. These activities serve as an outlet for negative emotions and helps them to be in the present.