Mindfulness and Dementia Part 1
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
A friend and I were talking about mindfulness the other day, and he said, “I know what mindfulness is. You’re just present in the moment and pay attention to your surroundings”.
Yes and no.
Mindfulness is not just about paying #attention to the present and our surroundings. One of the key factors of mindfulness generally speaking is paying attention to our internal cues first. Asking ourselves what the sensations are we are feeling in our body, or even doing a full body scan.
What do you see? What do you notice?
A few years ago, I got a chance to see how powerful #mindfulness can be, even under unlikely circumstances. My mother had been diagnosed with #Alzheimer’s several months earlier. We had tried, unsuccessfully, to manage her needs by having a caregiver in her home. It wasn’t enough. My mother’s memory and #dementia was such at this point that she was calling me up to 25 times a day, and not just me. She couldn’t remember not just the day, but the time. One day her caregiver was not there. She met me at the elevator half dressed and disheveled, asking me why I was there in the middle of the night. It was 2:00 in the afternoon.
With this level of confusion, I’m sure it’s obvious why moving her to a care facility - no matter how beautifully appointed - could be traumatic for her. Several times a day she would forget where she was and panic, or panic because she wondered what “all of these people” were doing in her home, and would she have to cook for them!
I visited several times a week, and while I was there, I was able to bring her back again and again by using mindfulness techniques. Sometimes she would need two sessions during a visit of only a few hours.
What are you feeling in your body? Focus on your breath - put your hand on your stomach. Can you feel it rise? Now, look at your surroundings. What do you see? Look at the people here. Do they seem friendly?
I couldn’t, however, be there all the time. I created a script for the caregivers to use so they could calm her when I wasn’t there. If only I’d taught her these strategies earlier, when she’d have been able to remember them for herself, I thought. Then one day, I was in for a #surprise...
To be Continued! Part 2