I have written often on the subject of dementia, most recently in my blog “Alzheimer’s Association Ends Agreement with Compassion and Choices” about the lethal discrimination against people with dementias like Alzheimer’s.
Having cared for a mother with Alzheimer’s as well as many patients and relatives of friends with dementia, I have found great satisfaction working with people with dementia. Helping them enjoy activities like music, tv, talking about past and present memories and laughing has been a real joy for me. Dementia does not automatically rule out a sense of humor or insight.
So I was delighted to find an article “Repairing Our View of Dementia“ in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology.
The author, Sujal Manohar, BS, BA, wrote:
“It is a rewarding experience each time I lead a virtual art gallery tour for adults with dementia. Though we are over 1000 miles apart physically and multiple decades apart in age, we connect over artwork through the Reflections Program at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. However, I did not expect that one comment from a participant—sparked by an art piece—would lead me to reconsider societal expectations and our care of adults with dementia.” (Emphasis added)
“As I shared images of the Radical Repair Workshop, 1 participant was intrigued by the idea of broken objects. He asked the group what we do with things when they are broken. Reflecting on his own experience, he questioned what we could do with him now that he was broken. He paused for a moment, then wondered aloud whether he had any use. He was well aware of his cognitive changes, insidious yet undeniable; the participant knew he was not functioning the way he once did.” (Emphasis added)
Mr. Manohar responded:
“I explained that these artworks showed us that all objects are valuable, even if they do not serve their original purposes. They can come together to make something beautiful. I emphasized that objects can be used in various ways and everyone has challenges and differences—that does not mean they aren’t valuable.” (Emphasis added)
Mr. Manohar also encourages using not only the perspectives of caregivers and healthcare professionals but also the person experiencing dementia, his or her social history and finding ways to give the person purpose that accentuate their strengths rather than focusing on their challenges..
He also makes a good point that helping people with dementia find meaning in in their lives many also help their caregivers who often experience can experience depression and difficulty managing their own feelings while providing support.
Mr. Manohar’s insights and positive attitude can hopefully help our society reevaluate the worth and value of people with dementia and improving their lives as well as those who care for them..
Our society itself desperately needs this.