Lori went to sleep early and then at 3:30 AM, woke up for a glass of water and there in the hallway with a huge toothless grin, wide awake and ready to take on the world was her mother. "Mother is everything okay?" "Lori, I thought I would crawl in bed with you," said Lori's mother. "Well, mother (Lori was thinking it would be impossible for her mother to fit in her bed that she shared with her husband), I don't think you would fit in our bed." "Why wouldn't I fit in your bed?" Lori's mother was surprised by Lori's answer. "Well mother, my husband is in my bed and I don't think you would want to sleep with him." "Well, you better tell that to him, because he is sound asleep in MY bed, not yours, and I would like you to ask him to sleep in his own bed," said Lori's mother. Lori was very tired, but silently amused because she knew her husband was sound asleep in her own bed, and would be mortified (if Lori's mother had crawled in bed with them), at the thought of waking up in the morning with his mother in law in bed with him!! "Well mother, it is possible that my husband could have been sleep walking and maybe he is downstairs right now snoring in your bed, would you like me to check?" "I sure would Lori, and tell him to stop with the nonsense and sleep with his wife!" "Okay Mom, why don't we both go downstairs and tell him together." So, they both went downstairs, and of course, no one was snoring in her mother's bed, but it was obvious that she had been awakened by something. It could have been a noise, not enough light in the room, or a bad dream.
Many times when disoriented people wake up from a nap, or a dream it is possible that they can become confused and frightened. It is not unusual for a shadow on the wall to become a dragon, or a lumpy pillow to become someone's husband. Their reality is their reality and as caregiver/carepartner's we have the job to meet them half-way by honoring their reality, and then redirecting them to a safe and secure position.
The Alzheimer's Association, and other experts who have studied dementia, have found that people do not only remember happy memories from their past, but sometimes vividly remember painful events that have happened in their lives. These memories which have been suppressed for decades, and stored in the subconscious mind can be triggered by mundane events. Being awakened from a deep sleep at night, or from a nap can bring the person back to the painful physical and emotional experience. WWII veterans suffering from P.T.S.D. can have moments of remembering which are very real. Women who have suffered from domestic abuse can have moments of remembering events which can bring the past into the present. An innocent caregiver initiating an activity can become, " the aggressor," or, " the other woman," or, " the domineering teacher," or "the abusive husband," etc. all from the past.
According to Naomi Feil, MSW, author and originator of Validation, it is of utmost importance to honor, research and recognize an individual's past history. In her workshops she states (to paraphrase), that these issues are coming up at the end of life to be healed so that the person experiencing these issues can find resolution. She says that they have "packed their last suitcase," and are preparing themselves for their peaceful transition.
How does this translate into positive caregiving and carepartnering? It gives us an awareness to use the tools of listening and thoughtful connecting which can lead to moments of reassurance and support. Active listening, and asking the right questions without judgment can open avenues of expression for the person who has held on to a lifetime of emotional baggage and has carried it around for a long, long time. Knowing that someone we are caring for is acting out in an unusual way (on an unconscious level), so that something can be healed, reminds us that there possibly can be a reason behind the action. The brain may be dying, but there is still a level of intelligence running the show which can be very comforting to see. Envisioning the person we are working with as an intelligent healing being helps us to honor the journey of dementia in a sacred and understanding way.
Are we trained therapists? Absolutely not, and there are some highly skilled experts out there who we can call on for help. But holding a place for active listening without judgment, and validating questions can not only offer possibilities of trust and heartfelt connections, but can also lead to unlimited avenues of spiritual healing. Honoring the person we are caring for from a spiritual perspective of having a universal intelligence running the brain which needs to rid itself of excess baggage from the past by behaving outrageously at times in order to heal, paves the way for peaceful living on a daily basis, and forever.
Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama Nicey
The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics. How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.