Your father is late today

“Hello mum”.

“Hello Darling.  Here I am, waiting for your father who is late today”.

“Don’t worry mum, he must have had a late meeting.  You know he is always longing to leave the office to get home to you. (When she hears this, Maria’s face lights up)”

“Yes, he is a very good man; when we were dating there was never a day when he didn’t come and see us when he left the office and it was a long way away too.  What a man!  (Maria has a big smile on her face)”

“But he’s late today…….I’m going to start laying the table (her expression becomes worried)”.

“Yes mum, let’s go into the dining room, I’m getting hungry”.

“You have always been such a good girl, you take after your father.  By the way, it seems that he is late today”.

“Yes, it’s strange; he must have had a late meeting.  Because he is always longing to leave the office to get home to you. (Maria’s face once again lights up, while her daughter Raquel gently takes her hand and leads her to the care home dining room)”.

It is not unusual for someone with dementia to become immersed in scenes from their past.  At those times – minutes, hours or days – it can difficult for us, their family members, to communicate with them; because even with the best intentions in the world, we think our only option is to correct our loved one’s “error” and bring them back to “reality.”  To our reality.

But, what error?  What is reality other than the present moment?  That sigh that follows on from the previous one and that never returns and never left.  And what about if we were to travel with our mother to where she is? If she has an 8 year old daughter and is impatiently awaiting her beloved to eat dinner, why can we not open our minds and meet her there?  Let us become that 8 year old girl who, with her mother, excitedly awaits the arrival of her father.  And let us enjoy the brilliance and wonder on Maria’s face when she realises how much her husband loves her.

Susana García

Moving your Soul

Learning to listen by Graham Stokes

alzheimer escuchar listen
People with dementia have something to say and they do say it. Unfortunately, their words invariably conceal who they are and what they want. Hence an objective of person-centred work is to decipher their words to unearth their concealed messages and in the process reveal that the person is not lost but merely more difficult to see behind the remnants of their intellectual powers.

However trying to understand the meaning of what a person with dementia is saying requires a gentle touch for we should never trample on a person’s communications and impose our interpretation on their words. We need to be patient, listen well and pick up the clues that may guide us to an understanding of what is being said.
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Keep Dreaming

I am very happily married to Peter Watt and have two sons, Charles aged 22 and Matthew aged 23. I was born in 1958 in a small country hospital and grew up in a farming community near Cleve in South Australia. Diagnosed with a rare younger onset dementia when I was 49, possibly semantic, my life has changed in ways that are hard to understand, and challenging to live with.
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Secret to Being Happy

There are a lot of moments when I feel profoundly connected to my father, and as the disease progresses, the ways and spaces through which we connect adapt themselves without my noticing. Every time I come through the front door of his home, I feel the shine in his eyes, welcoming me, and his limpid smile immediately lifts my soul. So we sit together on the sofa, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, and we share kisses, happy and calm. And I think: It doesn’t get better than this.

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Time released messages

There have been two cases in my family of people who have suffered this natural regression to states and stations of childhood: my maternal grandmother, Juana, and one of my great-aunts, María Deogracias, both of whom were very special to us.

I remember my grandmother encouraging and supporting me as if she were a young girl of my own age. She spoke to me as if she were a young woman instead of a 90-year-old lady, speaking to me as if to someone who was a reflection of her young husband. “You’re the best-looking grandson I’ve got! How many girlfriends do you have? Well, you treat ‘em mean, because you can choose among them…”. Then she would laugh. Later, she would say goodbye to me with a kiss on the lips, like she did with her husband. Before her regression, that was unthinkable.
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“ I´m still here ”

My grandmother lost her ability to speak very quickly, but when she did speak, we tried to maintain the conversation no matter how bizarre it may seem. We knew that even though the words she spoke might not make sense in that specific context, there was something she needed to tell us so we made every effort to make sure she felt us close. It is possible that she did not even understand what we were saying, but we still communicated. I believe it was a way of telling each other: “I am still here.”
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Entering her world

Communication ended up being the most difficult part. I have to admit that it was really difficult for me to put myself in her place and internalize that, as the disease progressed, she moved backwards in terms of knowledge, language and behaviour. I never did understand that what she could do one day, with total normalcy, she wouldn’t know how to do the next. I rebelled a few times, and I even yelled at her, thinking that if I said something in a louder voice, she’d understand me better, when nothing could be further from the truth – the impact was actually the opposite.
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Learning to appreciate

The last years with her were so precious. I learned to appreciate and bask in the bits of her that remained to me, instead of focusing on all the pieces that were lost. So I could love hearing her call me darling or say “I love you”, which she did for quite a long while into her final days; I was able to appreciate her highly developed social skills, which stayed with her even when her memory of who the person was with whom she was exercising them had left; I could enjoy her sense of humour and fun around silly things like when she spit on herself instead of into

the little kidney-shaped bowl when we were trying to brush her teeth together; I could appreciate how good a companion she could be, watching her wave to me from her gurney in the medical jet we hired to take us across country to Tucson for what turned out to be her final month of life.

Deborah Huisken