A Whole New World
It wasn’t until my aunt in North Carolina developed Alzheimer’s that I realized how devastating this disease of the mind can be. The last time I sat with her, she seemed to want to talk with me, but words would no longer come. Only a few sounds could be heard. She laid her head against my shoulder, and I said to her, “It’s hard when you want to say something and you just can’t make us understand, isn’t it?” She looked at me; half smiled and made another sound. Since that time, my uncle has had to care for her every need. He dresses her, feeds her,and takes her to the bathroom. He is definitely a saint. His only reply is ” She would have done the same for me…if things were reversed.”
Since my mother, who thankfully has very sharp mental abilities, had to have full-time care because of her congestive heart failure, I have been introduced to a whole new world. Her assisted living is a caring place with all degrees of health needs. As we visit, we see those who are not only bound to a wheel-chair, but are having conversations with someone somewhere. They are definitely in another time…another place…at least for the moment. Many of these people had active, full lives. They were owners of businesses. One gentleman talks about his farm.
It is a real wake up call to me..a real eye-opener. Many of these fragile people do not have caring daughters or sons to see them daily. They reply on the mercy of staff members who are good-hearted and want to see them through these last years. I am impressed with the nurses who take them by the hand or give them a loving hug. It is a little thing, but some make the effort for extra caring. Others do not. Don’t think that the resident doesn’t know….or notice the attitudes….they do. My mother speaks of her “favorite” nurse. I have observed that this is the one with the warm, friendly smile.
I read recently that 1 in 5 people have a mental disorder of some description. This can be any of us. Age is a big reason, but more and more are suffering at a younger age. There is autism or problems connected with drug abuse in our young.
More recently, I learned that there are therapies that are bringing out something that is hidden deep within these people. It is a wish to communicate….to feel a sense of worth… to know that they can still create something beautiful. This is called Art Therapy or Mneme Therapy. There are some distinctions in the approaches. (see below)
From the time we are toddlers and can hold a crayon in our hand, we show what we feel and what we’d like to say….even if language is not developed…or in later years, when language has gone away. I heard of a man who had a stroke and his vision was so effected that he was seeing everything upside down. After therapy using art, his vision corrected and he no longer has the reversal problem.
Below is a video that demonstrates the need for this type of activity for those whose minds are slowly leaving. Nancy Reagan called it “The Long Goodbye”.
You will notice the smile of the artist. You will also notice the emotion of the relative who could not believe that this could have such an effect. The director of the facility is over-joyed. Across our nation, there are groups working with the old and the young to bring the mind to a better place. We owe them a great debt.
Your world may seem completely normal. For others, the world has changed from what they knew. Art Without Boundaries (that uses the Mneme approach with art) explains the term, Mneme Therapy:
“MnemeTherapy™ uses everyday pleasures such as singing, movement, painting and story telling in a unique combination to stimulate dramatic changes in the brain. Although our goal is to provide a rewarding experience, documented testimonies show significant improvement in some clients in verbal skills, mobility, combativeness, spatial acuity and understanding instructions.”
Take a few more minutes….it may help you understand this whole new world.