By Leah Bisiani, MHlthSc/Dip Bus/Dementia and Aged Care Consultant/RN.1
This is part 4 of a 5-part series, ‘Loneliness is the Ultimate Poverty’, written by Leah Bisiani. Please ensure you have read parts 1-3 to appreciate this information in context.
The language of communication
People living with dementia often attempt to search for such meaning by reminiscing about the defining periods within the rich tapestry of their lives.
Without the ability to connect and retain relationships with those around us, it is possible a person may lose faith in who they are, whilst their inherent personhood fades, thus they feel undervalued.
We are additionally and enormously disinclined to recognise, encourage and rejoice in most human abilities, including differing methods to communicate, and this unfortunately may deprive every one of us.
Social contact and positive interface with others is a crucial feature in preserving and shaping our individual uniqueness, as we often define ourselves based on this rudimentary human necessity.
Enabling someone to again reopen the lines of communication may profoundly change a person’s life experience.
Some people living with dementia may find that dementia conveys experiences and understandings that those of us without the condition cannot even imagine, and furthermore, there are most probably no specific ways for them to express this verbally.
Does this not additionally, imply, activities of significance developed for individuals with dementia may assist them to experience positive emotion, thus communicate specific information about preferences that may be considered personally unique and meaningful to them?
Person-focused approaches, instigate dramatic changes within the malevolent philosophies of care associated with living with dementia.
Care needs should always be adjusted and refocused towards each individual, by understanding that biopsychosocial needs require merging with more functional and clinical paradigms, to truly foster a balance.
This is a rudimentary dynamic associated with an area which is habitually misunderstood, yet it’s the most definitive and critical factor in salvaging a person’s spirit.
Hence it is vital that we consider the significant affiliation between these features and connect them to the person.
Consider, instead of denying personhood, we adopt a more empathetic and compassionate approach towards understanding and caring for older people and people living with dementia, so that it is ensured our presence impacts positively on their lives in a deferential, affectionate and tender manner.
“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
John Joseph Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love
We are all a product of our own life transitions
This then enables a person to experience some level of control over their own lives.
Regeneration of past relationships and jubilant, happy, carefree times, may additionally aid in fulfilling attachment needs, which strengthens the enduring bonds that may possibly exist in one’s life, and form a connection between generations.
This can be accomplished through ongoing interaction of a nature which advances techniques to engage in any activity that convey significance to the individual’s past or present life.
It is often discussed, that empathy and emotional comfort engender softness, intimacy, the calming of pain and sadness, as well as resolution of the need to express stress related emotional states such as anxiety and agitation.
Delving into the past memories of any person, including people living with dementia, may be considered an admirable approach in re-establishing or re-generating lost emotional security and cherished relationships.
Especially acknowledging the relevance of how long-term memory is a significant positive feature related to dementia, of which is retained for the lengthiest amount of time.
Maybe this can be further expanded upon through the utilisation and encouragement of quality time with relatives and friends, routines, pets, books, hobbies, familiar music, physical activity, and lifelong customs.
Nevertheless, it is imperative to remind people of the simple pleasures, that may be central to their happiness, such as a beautiful garden, birds singing, smelling a flower, a sweet cup of tea or a warm hug.
What a delightful and pleasing way to acquire and share the foundations and knowledge about another human being and acquaint yourself with the sparkle that is shining within their soul.
Envision the remarkable implications of capturing the life story and memories of another.
It is possible to collect a vast fountain of valued and precious information and insights into a person, illustrating to us all how such treasured moments in time can exemplify who they have become.
This powerful awareness enables us to visualise a less fragmented image of a person, and instead digest the phenomenal lifetime that has become the person in front of us.
What a privilege to be invited to enter such a remarkable world of diversity and wonder, and to share the extraordinary magic with those who breathed it.
Knowing a person on such a glorious, personal level, may be the catalyst to creating opportunities that eliminate their inner despair and pain, imparting hope, uplifting the soul and raising self-worth.
By recognising the life transitions of another, interacting on a human level, connecting with compassion, and acknowledging emotional desires, we may effectively endorse social understanding, intimacy, comfort and warmth.
The emphasis should therefore be focused wholly on the person, to guarantee our attentiveness and utmost flexibility captures their essence, values their life experiences and acknowledges the place they continue to hold in the world.
Only then can we embrace a person within their own private actuality and empower ourselves to preserve their integral rights as a human being.
The exquisiteness of nostalgia and validation of life experiences
Recognising the evolution of a person throughout their own splendid journey and divergent life transitions, allows us to honour their humanity, retaining those wonderful elements required to enable us to cultivate compassion by learning to respect and value others.
We cannot deny how these myriads of experiences contribute to a lifetime of development and must ensure these aspects of a person’s spirit are always retained, holding a significant place within.
We do not have the right to savagely reject others nor strip people of who they are, purely because we are so unyielding, and lack the ability to see life through their eyes.
Reminiscence and validation are both a powerful and fascinating technique used when acting compassionately and initiating positive interaction.
Through the precious, poignant beauty of nostalgia we can empathetically capture the essence of a person, whilst linking and validating their long-term passions, sentiments and memories, to the present moment.
This heightened awareness allows us to function on a transformed stratosphere and permits us to demonstrate untainted deference for lives well lived.
Why would we not desire to sit down with a person who is older and usually much wiser, than us? Why would we not be caring enough to enter, learn and discover what it is that makes their world real and tangible?
All people are made up of innumerable captivating moments in time, superb stories, heartbreak we possibly cannot envisage, poignant and sweet memories, horrific loss, incredible joy, and uplifting recollections that make their story complete.
These wonderful images of life, painted by the artist themselves, can successfully close the gaps between our broken generations and foster total appreciation of the differences that make us so very special.
The use of old, faded, photographs that may curl at the edges, hold moments in time for eternity.
Song and dance can sift through the years and make smiles appear where none have flitted for so long. Sentimental possessions and little trinkets may all generate contact and interaction on a level that does not only rely on verbal interaction.
Anything can be shared if only we showed some interest.
“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
Children are also a wonderful and delightful source of non-judgemental, unconditional honesty and acceptance.
They are exceptional in the innate skill they possess in ‘taking people as they come’.
They do not have inbuilt stigmatised or stereotypical arrogances clouding their virtuous innocence.
Only we, as the role models of the younger generation, foster negativity in our children’s hearts and minds.
Therefore, it is we who must create change, teaching our offspring to develop the skills required to mature in a fashion that allows humanity to learn to cherish one another, and exist together as one, because of our differences, and not in spite of them.
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured”.
This completes Part 4 of “Loneliness is the Ultimate Poverty”, written by Leah Bisiani.