“To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.” This was written by Arne Garborg, a Norwegian writer, and has been my inspiration for many years. Even though I have worked with people with dementia most of my adult life, it was not until my father was diagnosed that I actually experienced the significance and value of learning one’s song. As I became the student and my father, the teacher, I discovered that to truly accomplish learning his song, I had to lay aside my own agenda, listen and be present. And I learned that being fully present took practice. I found this opportunity for learning with all of my clients with dementia and with their families.
In my personal and professional life, I have aspired to follow this course. As I continue to encounter families and friends struggling with dementia, my desire is to share these lessons in order to assist and empower them. My longing resulted in the writing of The Unseen Gifts of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. This book guides us to focus on the gifts that remain in the midst of the storm; gifts that people living with dementia have shown me. Offering practical advice coupled with gentle self-care and love, this writing is intended as another tool for both family and professional caregivers. The beginning step to a deeper connection is recognizing that people with dementia are still with us. Even though their brain is changing and faltering, they are still here. As we understand that people with dementia cannot change where they are, we learn that we can change our responses. Personal change with an open heart is essential.
As we change, our challenge is to become willing to receive and recognize the gifts. There is a place that is very reachable within the faltering brain, well into the late stages of the disease process. I have been blessed with reaching this place on many occasions, with many people, my own father included. This, I realized, can be taught and shared with others. Trusting intuition and allowing an open heart prepares the space and attitude to recognize the sacred beauty of connecting with the individual’s personal song of life. These lessons are at the heart of what has motivated me to bring forth this book.
The feedback has been sincere and heartfelt. The positive impact on the readers is evidenced by calmer, more confident family caregivers. Dealing with their personal feelings has opened doors to a better relationship with their loved ones with dementia. Professional caregivers have commented that this writing provided them with better insight regarding approach and empathy. A deeper understanding regarding family member’s concerns and issues surfaced for many after reading the real life scenarios presented.
Ultimately, self aware and knowledgeable caregivers help facilitate better lives for people with all types of dementia. Because the many emotional challenges and losses often overshadow the well-being of the caregiver, self-care is emphasized. Letting go of dreams, expectations and our agenda can be extremely difficult. The Unseen Gifts of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia offers a pathway towards this goal. Let us all see the gifts and know that those living with dementia are still with us and are able to teach us, touch us and bless us beyond words.
About the Author
Wendy Wells-Chanampa is a Registered Professional Guardian with expertise in senior care and is a Certified Dementia Care Practitioner and Certified Dementia Care Trainer through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners and International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. She is also a Certified PAC (Positive Approach to Care) Dementia Care Trainer through Teepa Snow, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA and a new author.
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