Present Moment Dementia

Imagine that your child had appendicitis. Could you imagine a family conversation about whether or not you’d do the operation on the kitchen table? I hope not.

Yet, families often get caught in a kind of equivalent around a parent with dementia. What shall we do? How can we get our parent fixed? What should we do to make them better?

Of course, any family is probably going to be watching medical developments closely and hopefully around this disease. So they should.

A family’s real role is having enough good care around the parent. Learning what makes good care for their parent. A certain level of agreement so that the family can move onto getting to know this parent in the present state of having dementia.

Often, that’s approximately the last thing many families do. I can guess why. I’m betting they mainly think, “Is this our inheritance? Is this who I’m going to be one day?”

I wish more frightened families would go into therapy, because their fear issue is not the reality of care. But they share our society-wide terror of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s, if we’re even talking Alzheimer’s accurately in most cases, is demonized. The reality is that life with dementia is not necessarily a torment. Dementia does not physically hurt. It can emotionally be a whole range of experiences, from okayish to horror.

I’m not saying there’s no reason to fear dementia, just questioning what use that has? Wouldn’t we do better to learn how to cope with dementia in a family member. Regular dementia, which is variable with a certain consistency in each individual, has good or bad days. That often depends upon the care that surrounds and supports the person with dementia.

I’ve always been astonished in this 12-step, personal growth, therapy-minded world of ours that we don’t all those skills to dementia. But we don’t.

On the whole, people would almost rather avoid to learn, grow and aim at finding good times in care. Now I’m not criticizing, just seriously wishing people could more easily come into the present moment with the person with dementia.

Holding back and fighting makes everyone so lonely, so frightened and so abandoned. Getting together, drawing in and learning some relationship skills applicable to dementia changes all that.

I have seen that over and over again. The help and hope and healing in dementia is for the family to come close and do what’s needed. That is the healing for everyone, even the person with dementia.

The biggest problem is the terror that keeps people away. Sometimes literally, but most often figuratively. I think maybe that’s why people don’t learn good dementia relationship. Maybe it’s too much like giving in instead of fighting.

Yet dementia is only like any other big family problem. It’s not different. Not special. Not really. When a family member can come and stand on the same side as the person with dementia, they both feel better.

And that is what all crisis and all care is about. About standing together. Sharing the burden. About being family, together with the person with dementia.

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