This article, which appears here with minor edits, originally appeared at http://mindsmatter.co.za on the 1st of March 2021 under the title “What if…”.
I wonder what would have happened if we considered dementia to be an “altered state”, reframing it not as a syndrome or an illness, but rather a different way of being in the world. What if there had never been this obsession with the biomedical rhetoric of brain dysfunction or neuro-cognitive impairment? What if people who were forgetting or who saw things that we could not see, who became detached from our way of thinking, or looking at time differently were not considered demented, but rather as living in an altered state of consciousness. What if we honoured them as people who were in touch with their higher Self, or in touch with a world beyond the here and now?
First of all, I think these people would be living a life mostly uninterrupted by fear and anxieties. They would not be labelled as mad or demented, they would not have what we label “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia”, nor would they “wander” or “vocalise”. They would be fully integrated into our lives, they would be living in the now, something that most so-called evolved souls long for and spend lots of time and money in spiritual retreats to try and attain. They would sit among us, we would look up at them, and we would treat them with respect and reverence. If they wanted to walk, we would walk with them. We would not play childish games with them to cajole them out of their sense of now, nor would we ask them patronising questions to “test” their cognitive ability.
For you see, if we do not frame their altered state as a sickness, we would not have to test or assess or screen them, we would simply accept them for who they are, where they are. We will aspire to be like them, we will sit with them to learn from them as learners at the feet of wise people. We will not medicate them or tie them to chairs. If we see them as Elders, wise people who are our teachers, they will be exactly that. We will learn patience, forgiveness, and tolerance. We will want to be in their sacred presence.
Is it not time we start to reconsider “dementia”? Visit our YouTube channel where we further contemplate dementia and the quality of life that older persons desire and deserve.
Rayne Stroebel, GERATEC founder and Managing Director
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