I have just been accepted to take part in a Dementia research Study for at least 10yrs. Dementia is a tragedy, especially to those whose family member is affected with this degenerative disease. It is a painful experience to watch, as I personally can testify, as the person we love disappears before our eyes.
One question to consider regarding dementia is ‘What makes us human’? Does losing one’s reality and grip on life mean that we become less human, less whole?
Being connected to the things that are important to us is indeed important, and as observers we feel helpless when that connectedness becomes ever so thin at times, yet tragedies happen throughout our life. Not being able to speak, express ourselves or communicate is a usual way is very disabling and distressing.
Being bound to earthy matters and concerns are how we establish our identity. We are linked into many social networks, relationships, communities and also God. Some of our boundedness is earthy, and some is Spiritual.
Living with the ‘memories of God’ is an internal journey, and it is a ‘re- membering of God’ within that person. I know that at times I saw a flicker of the person I love come to the surface, yet even though as a person of faith I would want to say that God is holding them, I think there is more, much more to say. When I used to visit a Dementia residential home, I found that saying the Lord’s prayer or singing a familiar hymn would often lead to some sort of communication with the person.
Does that mean that a person with dementia is less loved by God, or less aware of the Divine? If our journey with God is ‘internal’, then I would want to explore the concept of God still communicating and being ‘in communion with’ the person who we as humans cannot communicate with.
Jesus had two major periods in his life where he withdrew from being in communication with people and his disciples. The first is the period in the desert, and the second is when he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane till his crucifixion. On both occasions he seemed isolated to humanity, yet internally was in ‘communion with God’ where Jesus gained strength from God the Divine and God the Creator.
I think people with dementia have a lot to teach us, as dementia is only part of their story and their identity,,, They are still the same person who has lived and laughed, enjoyed life’s experiences. More research is needed to find out why dementia is increasing, but until then I hand the people with dementia with whom I cannot communicate with to God , and be assured that God is still in communion with them.
When my memory dims,
And the voices I hear are unfamiliar to me,
Be close and whisper the words of love deep within my heart.
When the faces are unfamiliar
and fear engulfs me
Be close and touch me with your Spirit
When the world around seems ever distant
And I feel lost and alone
Be close and guide me to a safer environment
When I lose my grip on reality
And I wander through the dark cold corridors of life
May your Holy Spirit be my Friend,
and guide me to place of peace.