When she first saw me, her face lit up in recognition, though I’m unclear whether she knew my name or who I was exactly.
If you have a loved one with dementia, you understand this experience. How glorious it is to make a connection with the one you love so very much. How difficult it is to witness their confusion as they try to place you. How painful to see their decline.
As my visit unfolded I reconnected with others in the facility. The general decline in health, from walkers to wheel chairs, was remarkably evident, as I looked around the dining room. Caregivers sat next to many residents to assist them in getting their daily nourishment. I did my part to coax Mom into eating, and was pleasantly surprised to see that her appetite, that had waned, was returning!
As I would look away to assist another resident, I saw how Mom was able to feed herself, at times with fingers, at times with fork or spoon. It struck me that the overall feeding style at this stage of dementia is that of a child: playing with their food, putting a piece of chicken into their glass of iced tea, attempting to put food on the fork, only to push the food off the plate.
As I saw a husband walk into the dining room to see his wife, the spark of love between the two was palpable. They walked out of the room for a visit. As they passed by, I smiled hello, choking back tears at my conflicted emotions of love and sadness.
"What thought could I choose to think to make this experience less painful?" I asked myself. I struggled. "Their Spirit is fine, untouched by the decay of the body", I reminded myself. "Mom is as sweet and innocent as a child, loving and loved. All is well." I knew this mentally, but my heart was torn.
While waiting at the airport for my return flight, I open ‘The Way of the Servant – Living the Light of Christ’ – as given through Jayem. The message is from Jesus, also known as Jeshua ben Joseph, and is a clarification and continuation of A Course of Miracles (also, see The Way of Mastery). From page 110: ‘the truths of the world are diametrically opposed to the Reality of the Kingdom.’
In the world, we value the intellect, the body and our independence. Dementia robs us of these things. “There is a lesson here”, I thought, “if I can just get past my sadness…”
When I said goodbye to Mom and her companions, I was struck by the Light of Love in their eyes. Their Christ Heart called to mine, and in that moment we experienced communion - our Oneness.
Could it be that our loved ones with dementia are calling us to awaken?
Truly, spending time with loved ones who are in the state of dementia and subsequent decline calls forth an open heart of love and service. We may need to work through our grief first, though, in order to get there. A shift in perspective takes courage and determination on our part. The choice is ours to make.
I want to send out a huge 'Thank You!' to all the caregivers at Mom's facility and to all caregivers, whether giving care at home or at a facility. You are so appreciated! Your work is truly a labor of love. Please be sure to care for your own needs, so that you can continue to give so unselfishly to those who need you so much.
Until next time, I encourage you to ponder these things, and appreciate your willingness to take this journey with me. And I look forward to hearing from you. What are your thoughts and experiences with dementia? What do you do to address your own feelings of grief and loss?