On March 2, 2019, I had the honor of being one of three conference opening keynote speakers at the "Mind Over Matter" Conference presented by the Minnesota and North Dakota Alzheimer's Association in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic of Rochester Minnesota. More than 2,000 people attended the conference.
The following are the closing comments made by Angela Lunde, Education Program Manager, Neurology. I believe that her comments summarize much of the current thinking and growth in the field of Dementia/ Alzheimer's care.
• • • • •
The voices of Sandy, Michael, and Dale reflect the message of today’s conference - Changing our Minds about people whose minds are changing. The prevailing narrative that still surrounds dementia is one of dependence, decline, and deficit, and since there is no cure, the belief that not much can be done.
But what if we took the stories from this morning and translated them into opportunities to guide our own thinking and growth?
What if, as Dale suggests we refuse to make assumptions about what a person can or cannot do just because of their diagnosis.
What if we focused more attention on detecting retained strengths in those living with dementia and opening up more and more opportunities for engagement and participation in community life?
What if, like Sandy and Michael we saw a person with dementia as a whole person, a human being with the same need to feel respected, worthy and loved like everyone else.
Sandy and Michael remind us that even in the trenches of profound confusion the essence of a person with dementia, the parts that matter most, remain undamaged.
And what if we believed that most anger and agitation or other distress were not so much a manifestation of dementia but a reasonable reaction to a person’s unmet emotional needs for independence, self-worth, purpose, and dignity.
If we believed this to be true, their disease would not go away,
But, if you believe this to be true, then we collectivity have the capacity to create the kinds of conditions that lead to wellbeing for those living with dementia.
Now, not every care partner will see their experience as ‘A gift ‘ the way Sandy and Michael have, and that’s ok. Care partners deserve to feel anger, sadness, exhaustion. And this is where compassion comes in.
May we hold space for one another, without judgment, resisting the urge based on our experience to tell a caregiver what they should do, or ought to feel. Each of us is doing the best we can, and that is good enough.
As Michael stated, you're not alone, look around, today you are in good company.