In the words of Dr. Dan Siegel “We come into the world wired to make connections with one another, and the subsequent neural shaping of our brain, the very foundation of our sense of self, is built upon these intimate exchanges.”
Creating and being in relationships is a crucial part of our development, our well being and our identity, our sense of self. We relate to each other by communicating with one another and we all can distinguish the difference between simply transferring information and communicating. When we feel seen, listened to, spoken to according to who we are, it is then that we feel another communicates with us – connects with us, meet us and then a dialogue is possible; when there is a common meeting space with others to express ourselves.
This afternoon, I was with my father at the residence where he’s been for the last three months. He has dementia that is compatible with Alzheimer’s. It was a special afternoon. Now that I’m writing these words, I feel truly moved.
The relationship I have with my father has always been very powerful, and there was even a time when there was great misunderstanding between us. I’ve always known of the love he has for me, and the love I have for him.
This illness imposes restrictions on us that demand not only that we adapt ourselves, but also that we adapt our relationships with those we love. As always, we only have ourselves to count on when we have to decide how to confront life. In my case, I always aspire to live my life in the most positive way possible. My relationship with my father has evolved to the point where the only tense we use is “present simple”: the immediate present, the here and now. My father doesn’t like it when we ask him what he was doing just before I arrived, or what plan he has for this afternoon. Not even when we ask him about plans, which will come soon, inside of his routine. Continue reading
Smiles and rage were pretty much the only reactions that my grandmother had until the very end. I used to talk to her in a positive tone of voice, with simple grammatical structures. I talked to her like an adult, not like she was a baby – something that seems denigrating to the patient. With my grandmother, it was better to avoid questions because she’d get blocked: information questions, or things like, “Do you know who I am?” or “How old are you?” or any sentence with the intonation of a question, such as, “Are you cold?” or “What food do you like the best?” were, for her, a huge challenge. Continue reading
Ever since the illness really began (except for those first few moments of denial), our relationship has changed. My mother was always very independent, and was an excellent housewife, in all senses; she could be extremely demanding and authoritarian, but also very tender. Well, that aspect of her personality has gradually been disappearing, giving way to another which is more dependent, but closer to us.
For me, the moment when I feed my mother is especially endearing. In the same way I did with my children when they were young, I have to be creative to make sure she swallows and to understand whether or not she enjoys the food she is eating. This is part of the great deterioration of her faculties, and it’s also an opportunity to create a lovely, special connection with her.It’s like when we have what we call our “virtual conversations”: those are the moments when she comes out of her void and I’m surprised when I’m drawn into a conversation where yesterday and today intertwine, her old routines, her likes, the little topics we’ve always shared.
Maite Parra, Spain