During my vacation, along with walking in the California sunshine, taking photos of flowers, and relaxing with my children and grandchildren, I read several books. One of them was Thoughtful Dementia Care: Understanding the Dementia Experience by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller.
You might be wondering why I would read such a book while on vacation. Wasn’t it depressing? Who wants to think about dementia at any time? Not many of us. It’s not my favorite topic of conversation. Probably not yours, either. But I hope you will keep on reading.
I chose to read this book not because I am greatly worried about my mental decline (although I do have some short-term memory loss) but because I want to understand the challenges that some of my friends and family members are going through. I want to understand the process of dementia so that I can be helpful to them.
Jennifer Ghent-Fuller points out that most books about dementia are written with the family and caregivers viewpoint in mind. That’s why she wrote hers differently. It’s written from the viewpoint of those who are experiencing dementia–people she taught, supported and cared for during 25 years of her life as a nurse.
This book was difficult to read. I could not read it straight through. As I began to see dementia through the eyes of those who have it, tears came to my eyes. I had to stop reading for a few hours. Why? Because I discovered that people with dementia are very emotionally sensitive. I have not understood that fact and lacked compassion.
As Jennifer points out, understanding their experience and viewpoint can help us see beyond their behavior problems, which might be our primary focus, and act with patience and kindness instead of anger and irritation.
I’ve tended to get impatient with them, as well as with myself when I forget something. I’m changing my attitude. I want it to match God’s attitude. He does not devalue those with a loss of brain power. From his point of view, who among us is not in some way lacking?
We might be children learning skills or we might be seniors losing skills. Either way, God loves us. We are spiritual beings not just physical bodies. Our spirits can connect with his Spirit even when our minds cannot.
God, give me a heart that beats like yours
When friends of mine stumble in this course–
Can’t find the pathway to their door,
Can’t reason as well as they could before.
Give me patience while they are losing some skills.
May I gently help them wipe up their spills—
May I never berate them or call them cruel names;
Help me speak with kindness, remembering my frame.
Help me gladly supply what they lack—
Explain by example, never attack;
Bear with their ignorance, their slowness, their fear;
Help me act wisely and do it with cheer.
Give me grace to stay, as their minds fade away,
For I might walk in those shadows, someday.