Wednesday 14 July 2010

More on the theology of dementia

I happened upon this article today. Plenty of interesting thoughts such as this:

Offering one's presence to a person with dementia means letting go of our need for rational interchanges, direct social cues, logical conclusions. It often means letting go of words altogether and entering entirely into the realm of affect and intuition.


Gabriel Smy said...

Like being with a baby.

Which is my point: that we have a lot of patience for the seemingly one-sided relationship with an infant, without ever questioning the child's worth or identity. In fact, a baby can instil us with a deeper sense of the specialness of being human, just by being, helplessly, vulnerably, ignorantly.

The inbuilt dispensation is that this is how humans come into the world. What if we could also accept that it is how we exit it too?

Annie Holmes said...

I really liked the point about:

"the person is no more or less "real" today than she was 30 years ago, then perhaps the "real" problem is our inability as bystanders to offer our presence to the post-dementia person. "

That we keep changing and God's fine with changing the way he relates to us.

Reminds me of Robert Farrar Capon's stuff about how being confronted with death and change is important, because realising we're mortal and changeable frees us to experience the resurrection. Part of the reason dementia is scary (for the carer and the patient) is that the change in people seems - often is - too big to get our heads around.

I've been learning slowly that you can have meaningful interaction, and even build a relationship with someone who has dementia: like a baby... but they're also a person with a history and a wealth of experiences and memories which impinge on the present. (Although not always in a coherent way).

There can be a lot of scope for empathy and understanding (from both sides), and even conversation about events the person can remember. Although sometimes you have to be pretty alert to keep up with what they are talking about. And it takes a lot of tolerance of weirdness: my favourite example being a patient who was convinced I was a young single mother she'd known forty years ago.

Andrew said...

Gabriel I like your post. The only reason against it is that a baby is becoming more than it is; an elderly person with dementia is becoming less than they are.

But the point stands, I hope, though perhaps more morally than pragmatically: although with a baby you are investing in who they are becoming, in the latter case you are investing, more indirectly, in the world you will inherit as an old person.

Dim Lamp said...

As a chaplain I too have learned much from people with dementia. Ministry of presence and living moment by moment, and humility--willing to receive what people with dementia have to offer you--is integral to journeying with them. For those interested, Still Alice is an excellent read.

Blessings in your studies,