Dementia can be a difficult time for families as they watch the person they once knew slowly disappear. For someone with dementia, the past no longer has any relevance as the memories gradually fade. Connecting with the person through loving touch bypasses this attachment to the past and offers connection through the heart, the body and the being within.
My mother suffered from dementia, and she came to a point when she no longer recognized me or knew my name. Having a conversation only created confusion for her, so I used to hold her hands and then gently massage them, and the feeling between us re-awakened and she called me “daughter!”
Could it be that we have become so very far removed from safe and nurturing touch as we grow older?
It all began when I visited her with a gift of hand lotion. At first it was awkward and she did not like being touched. Perhaps the closeness was too much for her, perhaps she had become very removed and isolated from touch and any true loving connection, especially in a nursing home where the only physical contact was to assist her in everyday personal care needs, which was not always pleasant.
In the beginning, she struggled and her resistance came up, then she began to relax, melt and fall into a light sleep … and within fifteen minutes she became peaceful and her restless nervous hands became still.
On another visit when again she did not recognise me, her eyes lit up when I held the bottle of hand lotion in my hands and she said,“Yes, please!” We were communicating!
A few weeks later I observed her in a repetitive anxious state along with restless legs and lack of sleep. I wrapped her feet in steaming warm towels and then gently massaged the hardness from her legs and feet. She relaxed and calmed down and slept like a baby afterwards.
My mother had spent her formative years in Wales during the Great Depression and then the Second World War, and these experiences had shaped her. It was obvious how stifled her life had become. She had learned how to survive but found herself unable to see outside the wall she had erected around herself, always worrying about money and stockpiling food: she lived in a climate of fear and poverty.
Eventually, dementia had taken away her memories, worries and also her life-long struggle with asthma. Yes, even the asthma was cured, leaving her with a wide-eyed childlike innocence, and we became playful and joyful in each other’s company.
Not many words were needed to communicate and yet, we were communicating heart to heart in a true way and our new relationship had begun through a gentle loving touch that would re-connect us to ourselves, each other and the harmony within.
These days a new awareness has developed through this experience for me to be working with and around people with dementia and their families. I might add that it wasn't always an easy road, sometimes to the point of exhaustion where I would almost lose my way. Usually, when I used to feel sorry or sympathetic towards another who I perceived to be suffering, I would get drained and exhausted. But to shut myself down, becoming cold, hard and detached and not feeling, did not work for me either.
During this time, I had support in the way of healing sessions with Serge Benhayon and other Unimed practitioners and I attended Universal Medicine workshops where I began to feel more of myself and understand the need for more loving care, nurturing and healing within myself. It was only then that I was truly able to develop an understanding towards others.
I began to feel a warm detachment – compassion for people. It’s not that I don't care, it’s quite the opposite: I can accept that a person is exactly where they are, on their own journey just as I am, and there is no way I would want to interfere with their process, change them or provide a safety mattress to prevent them from feeling where they are at; there’s nothing to fix, I simply love them just the way they are and they can feel that.
It is now possible for me to offer my assistance and true care without the entanglement and emotional attachment. I am more loving with myself, playful and able to get out of my own way and offer a true service when supporting those with dementia.
Yasmin L., Australia
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