I received so many gifts today.
Outside our lounge at work is a lovely patio, but like any garden, it needs work. Two tables full of inside plants needed to go outside, weeds and other winter debris had to be moved from the planters and the soil made ready for the colourful annuals I can't wait to get my hands on. (It's been a long winter!) However, it's also nearing the end of the month (with all that entails.) I had a meeting to prepare for and several other pressing tasks.
I didn't have time to garden.
Enter Warren.* He started by cleaning out all the beds, then pulled the weeds and swept. I carried out the plants, and in an hour, the patio looked clean and lovely. Warren gave me a gift.
Kathryn* made a comment that was designed to make me throw back my head and laugh. It worked.
Julia* saw me and her eyes lit up, and then her whole face glowed with a beautiful smile.
Robert* and I chatted over lunch, and he flashed me his boyish grin.
So many gifts--every one of them from a person with dementia.
I see them give gifts to each other, too. The other day, one of the ladies at the next table in the dining room called the nurse, but not for herself. Her table mate fell the day before, and was in pain. After the remedy had been given, she gently touched her friend's hand. "You should feel better in about 20 minutes."
The concept that people with dementia have something to give is foreign to some. Certainly the medical model says, "You have a disease. We will treat it and keep you clean and safe. We will care for you."
It takes a new set of eyes to see the gifts.
Dr. G. Allen Power says, in Dementia Beyond Drugs, "It is also important to provide opportunities for elders to be care givers as well as care recipients. Most of our elders have lived through wars and economic booms and busts. They have raised children, pursued careers, and acted as mentors and advisers over the years. We have seen how the institutional nursing home fosters dependency and causes people to feel helpless and of little use in the world. As with decision making, people with dementia can almost always give care on some level, whether by reading to a child, watering a plant or stroking a cat" 1 (italics mine)
If you believe the essence of the person exists in spite of disease and physical challenges, you begin to look for the gifts.
They may not be the same person as before in some (or many) ways, but certain passions, or simple pleasures, remain.
I challenge you to focus on what gifts you are receiving each day.
Then, say, "Thank you."
* all the names have been changed
1. Power, G. Allen, Dementia Beyond Drugs, p. 93