Let's Talk Dementia

Come sit here next to me. Somehow this sentence is always comforting. It is an invitation one expects from someone who cares – a friend, a lover, a parent or grandparent. It feels comforting, reassuring, welcoming. And non threatening. We are on the same level, and I don’t have to feel that you are looking at me. We can look in front of us, non confrontational. And I can feel you next to me. I might even hold your hand or place my hand on your knee. Gently.

We do not always have the courage to look someone in the eye. Sometimes we just want to avoid the reality of a stare, the vulnerability of facing someone or something. Then we need to just sit next to someone. I want to suggest that it is a way of dealing with the difficult things in our lives – pain, sadness, loss, trauma, fear. We are taught that we should face things head on, that we should look them in the eye, stare them down, be strong, be brave. Stand tall. Sometimes we simply do not have the courage to do this and just want to run away. Well maybe “come sit here next to me” is an alternative.

For many people dealing with a loved one who is living with dementia is too much to face at times. We do not have the answers as this is not what we signed up for. We have no idea what to do and beat ourselves up every time we make a mistake. We feel terrible when we are not the brave superstars that everyone says we should be. We lie awake at night, worrying about where this is going. We always feel that we have to ACT, that we have to DO, make things better, solve problems and have answers.

What if we simply invite this “unknown” to come and sit next to us. To be simply BE with that feeling – the fear, anxiety, anger or hurt, the unknown. Invite it to come and sit next to you. Close enough to feel its presence. Next to you so that you are aware of its presence, but don’t quite have to look it in the eye. Close enough to feel it, smell it, hear it breath. And just be with it, in the now, sitting and getting to know it. Then perhaps put your hand on its knee, gently feeling what it feels like. No need to talk or to explain or to answer questions. Just BE.

In this way we can get to know each other on a much deeper level. Sit there for a long time. Watch the sun set. Hear the birds. Don’t rush. Then get up and go on with your life. Maybe make a date for another sitting tomorrow. And the day after. And perhaps you will get into a pattern of sitting comfortably with the discomfort of whatever it is that is difficult for you. The same would apply for your loved one living with dementia. You do not have to talk or do anything. Ask them gently “come, sit here next to me”. Your presence is the biggest gift that you can ever give someone. Be generous with it, for it will open your heart and your mind to receive that person’s vulnerability and share your own.

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