A double dose of thanks – to Stacey Burling, whose 05/08/18 Inquirer article let me listen in on Monday’s Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter Annual Conference ~and~ to Rabbi Dayle Friedman for the link to it! Blessings on both!
First up was Dr. David Wolk, a neurologist & co-director of the Penn Memory Center, who introduced me to the jaw-dropping potential impact of “precision medicine” on treating Alzheimer’s. I knew about the astonishing impact of brain imaging on identifying a patient’s specific type of cancer, never thought about its application to detecting & treating forms of dementia.
It’s been tough for doctors to effectively treat dementia. It takes many forms & – seriously – could only be accurately diagnosed after death; it took an autopsy to conclusively identify the brain changes & presence of certain proteins. It feels like a Ouija board would be more useful than traditional x-rays. Now, brain imaging allows doctors to spot, even in very early stages, markers of Alzheimer’s, like shrinkage, the presence of amyloid & tau proteins, and other biomarkers. Amazing.
Next up in the article is Stephen Post, a psychologist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, who reminded everyone to never dismiss the value of people with dementia (aka the deeply forgetful). Bravo, Dr. Post, for ballyhooing the power of creativity in working with dementia patients, that the areas associated with art poetry music seem untouched by its destruction.
Makes me think about the client that my John had, a 90-something woman with profound Alzheimer’s – she was basically non-communicative. Her daughter, who lived in the Midwest, had read Berna Huebner’s book I Remember Better When I Paint & wondered if being with art might have a similar impact on her mother. It did! John sat with her, colored pencils or water colors at the ready, drawing paper awaiting her touch. At first, she just sat, unresponsive. An aide suggested taking her back to her room. Instead, John asked her to get the woman’s beloved stuff bear. The look on the old woman’s face when John gently placed the bear in front of her & suggested, “Grace, would you like to paint this?” – – she barely moved, but her eyes came alive, we could all feel a life force swell up.
Her caregivers & John differed in their response to the older woman – they treated her like she wasn’t there, while he always saw the life force within. His work with her baffled them, but I had the joy of watching my husband call out to a fellow artist, experienced him connecting with the whole self within.
John will resonate with Dr. Post’s message.
Last & surely not least, Stacey turns to Dayle Friedman‘s presentation. As my readers know (check out my March blog posts), I am a super fan of Rabbi Friedman’s & am over-the-moon grateful for getting a sense of her presentation.
What a blessing to be reminded that along with the heart-break of caring for a loved one with dementia comes learning, remembering to live more fully in each present moment, staying open to joy & love – – IF we allow ourselves to remain open to accepting the powerful lessons of dementia.
Rabbi Friedman goes to the heart of what I believe are the gifts we are offered in being present for our parents & other loved ones in times of dependency & debility – – those states can help us see past the physical temporary transient to the reality that has nothing to do with intellect memory cognition & everything to do with spirit. They strip away what doesn’t really matter to get down to what does. Just as we can recognize that the person is not intellect memory cognition, we can move past their faults & flaws to see them as simply human. And when we can see that in them, we can see it in the toughest person of all – our self.
Mega thanks to Stacey Burling for her eye- & heart-opening article. This meager synopsis is a bare nibble of her wonderful share from Monday’s conference. A must read!