Health and Wellness

Healing From Within

Sheryl Glick


April 17, 2018
Special Guest: Deborah Shouse
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within” your host Sheryl Glick, author of The Living Spirit, which shares stories of spiritual awakenings, spiritual communication, and Universal Healing energies, welcomes Deborah Shouse, author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia. Deborah a condition that is a fast growing health challenge of modern times. Deborah’s book offers very practical useful daily activities and plans and resources to rely on that show caretakers how to make life better for themselves and their loved ones while living actively with this health challenge.
Deborah Shouse is a writer, speaker, editor, and dementia advocate who shares her journey with her mother which led to her realization that caring for someone with dementia required enormous creativity, letting go of the past and embracing the new reality. In wishing to help those who are challenged by dementia, we can recognize that incorporating innovative thinking into the caretaking journey may make all the difference in how well your loved one experiences life and indeed their final days. How much you are both able to grow and embrace responsibilities with a fresh perspective and new found love.
Sheryl suggests to Deborah that through the experience with her mother she most certainly discovered “There are many paths to finding out more about the complexities of our human and spiritual essence but none are the only way or right way and as long as we continue to seek happiness and wellbeing no matter the challenge….the human spirit triumphs.”
Many people have a limited understanding of the differences between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia whose labels are often used interchangeably. In fact the distinction between the two diseases often causes confusion on the behalf of patients, families and caretakers. At least five million Americans are living with dementia. They are cared for by more than fifteen million unpaid caretakers and by thousands of healthcare professionals and support staff. According to World Alzheimer’s Report by the year 2030 74.7 million people worldwide will be living with dementia…at this time there is no cure. But there is hope and many ways to stay connected and creative and honor the spirit reminding us we can all make a difference…one painting one smile one song…one shared experience
Dementia is the term applied to a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory and daily activities impacting the ability to function independently but Alzheimers is a progressive disease of the brain and affects language and thought.
Neither is considered a normal part of aging…People with dementia have trouble keeping track of time and tend to lose their way in familiar settings. As dementia progresses forgetfulness and confusion grow…it becomes harder to recall names and faces. Personal care becomes a problem..Other signs include repetitious questioning inadequate hygiene, and poor decision making. In the advanced stages behavior continues to change and can turn into depression and aggression.
Some causes of dementia include infections such as HIV, vascular disease, stroke, depression, and chronic drug use.
Deborah says there are probably many misconceptions regarding dementia. She writes, “Many people may underestimate the abilities and also the need for the person dealing with this disease to stay connected active and sharing love with those around them…Love is a powerful communicator and helps the inner being or soul to express itself in ways that may be limited physically but spiritually another side of the person could be seen and valued at this time…instead of seeing loss it may be important to see what can be learned perhaps even cherished in this new way of being with a person you have known in other ways prior to this experience of dementia…For those who spiritually believe we are having the experience we need to resolve karma and refine our inner energetic essence or soul, we know dementia or any disability may be an experience that is needed in our life journey for our soul growth and so it must be accepted …..”
Deborah describes a few qualities of music, visual art, and other forms of creativity that make them so valuable. Some of the benefits readers and caretakers can look forward to when they do the activities in this book together——increased energy, increased socialization, reduced anxiety, and changes to express yourselves in new and meaningful ways. The ideas are easy to do and they are adaptable to all ages and abilities. Caregivers can simply incorporate them into the daily routine and these shared activities will enrich their time together.
Deborah writes that nature based activity is therapeutic and is essentially a form of treatment for dementia symptoms, helping people remain at home longer.
Sheryl says, “Then all of the creative arts music story telling using nature to stimulate and uplift the mood and memories are all powerful motivators for achieving a sense of accomplishment and some control over a situation that has its own projector and in essence these attempts to help should make the caretaker feel he has done his best in providing valuable moments in the life of their family member or friend.
“Months into my journey with my mother, Deborah realized that caring for someone with dementia required enormous creativity. Every day required loving flexibility, the ability to problem solve and the willingness to let go of the past and embrace the new. I often asked myself: How can I connect with Mom? How can I help Mom have the best possible life as her abilities and mind change? How can I take care of myself while still being there for her?” “Many care partners struggle to stay connected with their loved ones and they struggle to stay connected to their own goals and dreams. My creative outlook kept me centered and helped me truly appreciate my mother during our fascinating and challenging journey. The journey through dementia is described by Deborah like a trip she took to an Ecuadorian jungle where beauty and danger existed in a chaotic and unknown environment. The journey through dementia can be similar. My partner Ron and I trekked through the dementia jungle with 3 of our four parents. We tried to keep our parents stimulated and engaged and learned the power of creativity and imagination. We also learned that even when people can no longer drive to the grocery store or remember their grandchildren’s names, their lives can still be rich. In fact, because their reactions are sometimes less filtered and more honest, their creative powers are often heightened.”
Deborah says that “A creative approach is a sincere belief in people’s potential. It’s about helping people express themselves. Increasingly studies show that painting, drawing and other arts and crafts reduce cognitive impairment. Additional activities such as music movement gardening and social interactions strengthen the body brain and spirit. The spark can be lit by storytelling theatre dance movement cooking, technology, art or gardening..all are good for making connections. Meaningful activities have to be as big a priority as medicine, bathing and meal times.”
All people with disabilities are entitled to choice, privacy, respect, and autonomy..Any assistance should be centered on their personal preferences and values.
Deborah shares some of Laura Becks firsthand observations of the wonders of creativity and dementia. She wrote, “Where words no longer brought us together, something richer did…a universal expression, a deeper knowing a place where the resilient human spirit against all odds rises to meet itself and seek another.”
Laura Beck says, “Once you recognize your own fears about dementia and aging you feel stronger..tells the story of finding her dad in bed chanting like a shaman or warrior…she began to engage him and also chant saying I hear you…later she realized her Dad brought her into the present and invited me to play…those where the most connected moments I ever had with him…Laura learned ,”Every moment, we’re both recipient and giver.”
In Sheryl’s book, The Living Spirit, she wrote what seems to respond to that thought of connectedness and the beauty of being able to receive and give love. “In the physical world, it is hard for most people to show love for each other without wanting something in return…However this is egocentric thinking…..Indeed I have learned as a result of deep meditation practices and the messages received from Spirit that the giving and receiving of LOVE is the major reason a soul welcomes a physical life…in one way or another all interaction revolve on being able to extend past fear and the fear of losing love so we can be more loving regardless of how the other person responds. The giving of love may not necessarily include grand gestures: rather it is communicated through glances, words, music undivided attention and concern and the time invested in others.”
Sheryl then tells a story of one of her clients, a young student going off to college and feeling some anxiety so her mom, a nurse, booked a Reiki session for her. Immediately upon placing my hands above her eyes, I heard in my inner being a song and mentioned it to girl who started crying. She told me her grandmother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t remember her anymore and that made her sad. The song from the soul of her grandmother that Sheryl heard was telling this young woman that she was the same grandmother within her heart who loved her when she sang to her as a child and now and forever. So we are never lost in Spirit thought the physical world gives us other challenges.
Deborah says Connecting in the Land of Dementia offers many practical activities and insights for accepting people on the level or experience they are able to have, allowing for any guilt or recrimination to fall away.. It truly teaches you to honor the human spirit and allow and accept with higher emotions of love and compassion, rather than anger and grief the situation you may find yourself in as a caretaker or as the person with the health challenge
Some ways to engage are to develop a Reading Round Table Group discussions with topics such as basketball, the life of Leonardo da Vinci, the history of the chocolate chip cookie and so on. Each participant receives a booklet with bold print and color and then participants add their own remembrances…Treat people as we wish to be treated..enjoying responsibilities purpose and meaningful social roles .CREATING CARDS FOR CONVERSATION with a shared memory, a line from a favorite song or a family joke are other activities that can lift spirits as are talking about dreams and preferences. Some include; 1. What’s on your bucket list? 2. What are your favorite songs, singers bands, foods, hobbies and activities. 3. Look at old pictures and show me your favorites. 4. Tell stories about growing up your family, jobs friends sports you played vacations you took tell what’s important in your daily routine..reading the newspaper, morning coffee an afternoon walk etc.”
When communicating with a person living with dementia…Go with the flow Don’t contradict argue or question Don’t hold onto the past, don’t insist on our loved ones being normal..they are normal in their world and we need to step into their arena to connect Also Allow for Silence..sometimes we don’t know how to respond so maybe we have to say NOTHING
We might utilize music…We believe music has unique powers to heal rehabilitate and inspire..We may forget facts, but we never lose feelings and associations. Shared music can forge a sense of connection between people. Associated memories and feelings are preserved and evoked when we hear certain tunes again. Creative way to use music include 1 Make a catalogue of songs your partner and family like– Sing Disney tunes with the grandchildren. 3 Seek community concerts 4 Invite friends to sing songs. 5 Explore opportunities with music therapists 6 Reduce resistance and increase a feeling of safety …sing along during daily care routines such as bathing and getting ready for bed.
Deborah Shouse has shared a detailed and helpful look at a challenging health issue that faces so many families. She has offered a positive loving creative way to continue to value and connect to loved ones regardless of changes in their mental functioning. We have taking a look at making connections with loved ones living with dementia finding that perhaps creativity thoughtfulness and love are the best approach to reaching the hearts or souls of others.
Deborah suggests that music is a way people connect to their fears and their most pleasant remembrances and suggests people with dementia and cognitive issues connect through rhythmic activities using percussion instruments, chanting and movement. She tells us about Marlon Sobol a music specialist who writes “Even when people have memory issues their lives still have rhythm. Their heartbeat breathing and walking are rhythmic. Their daily schedules typically have a regular cadence. Rhythmic movements boost communication reduce anxiety improve mood and enhance motor skills….they offer a safe way to express emotions and create music.”
Deborah and Sheryl would like our listeners to remember that whatever challenges cross your doorstep embrace the opportunity to find the courage within your soul and simply do the best you can to help yourself and those you care for find the silver lining in the challenge and still remain positive and appreciative of life……No one has to do more.