Monday, 11 November 2013

I don't know you ... I love you!

I haven't posted for a long time. There is plenty I could have written about, but I just couldn't seem to write it! I spoke it, though. I do like to talk!

I have a constant battle with myself about whether I should be writing at all. The ever-present crisis of confidence. The crisis I have about every aspect of my life. Am I a good mother ... am I a good editor ... am I a good friend ... am I a good [fill in the blank]??

There is one day of the week, however, where my inner critic takes a break, where I don't have time for the usual self-analysis. On this day, I spend time with people who have dementia. When I first started doing this, I felt all the usual trepidation, the usual doubt. Will I be good at this? Can I even handle being around people who are suffering such a cruel disease? I had some idea of what it would be like. My mum had dementia. It wasn't pretty. She had a slow agonising decline.

There is no doubt that dementia is a horrible illness. There is no doubt that watching someone you love slowly dying is heart-wrenching. I wasn't sure I had the "right stuff" to be around people with dementia.

I will admit, it's been a steep learning curve! It's not that I really "do" much. I sit with people, serve morning tea, do puzzles, serve lunch, chat. But you have to be completely "present" in what you do. It's the most important aspect of the job. Here's the amazing part. I love being there. It's a joy in so many unexpected ways. I don't know much about the past history of the people I'm with. I know very little of who they were before the disease took hold. This gives me an important advantage. Unlike their loved ones, I don't grieve for who they were. I can enjoy them for who they are now. I can be with them in the present. We sing, we dance, we laugh, we play with balloons, we talk, we comfort each other, sometimes we cry. They never fail to surprise me with their insight, their kindness, their gratitude. We take each day as it comes. Sometimes they remember me, usually they don't, but it doesn't matter. The only prerequisite is that I am "open" to whatever happens. I accept them for who they are now, and they accept me in the same way. There may not be a tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago I was greeted with this by one of the dementia patients: "I don't know you ... I love you". If only we could all express that sentiment.

Today was Remembrance Day, and ironically I spent the day with people who are losing their memory. But it was the perfect place to be. One of the carers saw this quote on the way to work, and she wrote it on the board: "If the power of love could overcome the love of power, the world would be at peace"!

Remembrance Day, indeed.


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