Dementia – a Window into the Present

Dementia - A window into the Present
When someone you love suddenly can’t remember your name or events you have shared together, especially if it is a parent or a child, the reaction can be painful and disheartening. We associate relationships with one another based on memories we have created, and suddenly, when those memories are gone, we feel a disconnect and a sense of loss. This is the common response to dealing with someone with dementia or other memory-related issues. But what if another standpoint was taken? What if those individuals who are taking on the symptoms of dementia are, instead of suffering an illness, opening a window for us into the present moment?

Life is experienced as a series of consecutive moments, stacked up next to each other making up hours, days, months and years of our lives. The people we love, and especially grow up with, give us many years of stories, when woven together, make up the tapestry that is our life ‘history.’ Moving out of childhood and into ‘adult’ experiences, we are prone to take what we have learned from the ‘past’ and apply it to the present – and decisions about the future. It is a natural response to living in linear time.

A Quantum Look

Quantum science today is challenging the very notion on which we have constructed our reality, showing us that time is really fluid and does not exist in the way we may think. We are presented with the opportunity to affect reality by harnessing the present moment and releasing notions of the past so as to access the greater possibilities of the future unfolding right before our eyes.

Dementia is an interesting condition when you look at it through the lens of quantum science. Here are individuals who seem to have left the linear plane of reality and are functioning in a highly ‘present’ state – so much so that often basic mechanical functions of the body are forgotten along with names, faces and birthdays. This is the most frustrating thing for a care-giver, especially when the care-giver was raised by the one now ‘forgetting’ things they themselves previously taught. What an interesting opportunity this presents if looked at through a new perspective of the quantum world and what insights may be learned.

When are we ever present?

We are not trained to live in the present moment, in fact very few of us ever visit it with our minds even though we are in it all the time. We largely spend these moments remembering things or planning for the future; worrying about what has not happened yet, or fretting about what has already occurred. We give very little credence to the here and now. The only time this is not true is in moments of sexual passion, a good workout or other peak experiences such as childbirth, extreme sports and moments proceeding death. What’s funny about this is these are the moments science and metaphysics would refer to as ‘ecstatic states.’ The state of mind on these occasions is equivalent to where the person in meditation strives and eventually reaches and sits in. Those experiencing dementia seem to be accessing a similar place, though without conscious choice about getting there – we think.

The Blessing of Presencing

What if we could listen to our loved ones with dementia from the standpoint of opening a window into the present moment? What if we could see the world how they see it and feel the innocence of childhood through their directed attention? Would we learn something new about ourselves and maybe this condition? Even more importantly, would we find much needed relief and new found blessings in communicating with them in a way not previously experienced?

Scientific Research

There are movements now in the health industry called ‘Mindfulness in Dementia’ and the like, that are training caretakers of those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and similar ‘illnesses’ to approach their loved ones with this very perspective and are finding great results by doing so. Many benefits are thought to occur as a result of practicing mindfulness or ‘presence’ with those experiencing symptoms as is being outlined by the The Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University such as:

  •  The benefit of being able to ‘stand back’ a little from the distress of the illness.  Mindfulness helps people to develop a way of acknowledging the experience but having more choice about how they respond to it.
  • The cultural support that mindfulness philosophy gives to ‘being here now’. This could counter some of the distress experienced by people with dementia when confronted with difficulty in accessing past memories or possible confusion about the future.
  •  Mindfulness is effective in reducing stress and this could be of direct benefit to carers. They might gain new skills in how to deal with their own thoughts and feelings in relation to the person with dementia
  • The enhanced experience of intentionally being ‘in the moment’ – should be valuable to someone who might spend a lot of time in various degrees of confusion
  • There could be beneficial changes in brain structure. Research is beginning to identify a number of physical changes in the brain of people who meditate – though there is no research yet to suggest a specific impact on Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia

More studies will have to be run to know the results for sure, but just in the simple act of contemplation one can start to realize the benefits of approaching dementia as a possible window into the present rather than a debilitating disease.  At the very least, this brings about a more positive attitude and hope for reward- as well as new connection with a loved one.

(op-ed)

Written by: Stasia Bliss

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