I don't have a dementia diagnosis but I've coped with it as both a professional and family caregiver for the past 15 years. Our national dialogue talks about the many burdens dementia sufferers and their families face but seldom do we hear any positive takeaways. Over the next five months I'll share the life changing things I've learned and show how experience with dementia helps me face my own aging and aids me in personal growth. This month: Lesson #1
Artwork above by Joan Dolan from The Artist Within Exhibit
#1: Go with the flow
People who face the mounting challenges of dementia and are "going with the flow" inspire me. From my view, those that do often endear themselves to caregivers and tend to enjoy more support and stability in their long journey. I'm amazed at the courage and grace simply required to start each new day because a dementia diagnosis implies dramatic changes over a long period of time and, as it progresses, will require a caregiving arrangement, perhaps changes in residence, and constantly dealing with loss and disruption. In addition, the loss of language, memory, orientation or perhaps loss of control over bodily functions requires people with dementia to not only handle the stress and stigma that it may create but to live up to the challenge of functioning with increasing limitations. Witnessing go with the flow as such a powerful tool motivated me to adopt it in my own life.
I use the philosophy now both professionally and in my personal life. Professionally it's especially useful in the later stages of dementia which may involve unusual behaviors and otherworldly experiences that are hard for caregivers and family to understand. Go with the flow philosophy helps me to react to the episodes and successfully support people experiencing these moments. Go with the flow has also helped me to face my own aging and related losses, disappointments, and challenges and I use it to improve bonds with friends and family. A go with flow manner inspires others, helps with communication, and makes everyone's life easier. Do you have that philosophy on board?
Below you'll find an inspirational video on the basics of adopting a go with the flow philosophy. There are many degrees of going with the flow from simply being agreeable, trusting life, or living intuitively, for instance, to actually making it a faith/spiritual practice as described below.