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December 08 , 2009

A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer's and other Dementias

Practical Tools with Spiritual Insights


Soul-searing, life-testing situations have what some call “fall-out blessings.” The book is about understanding some of the deeper lessons we are exposed to through caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. We all want a cure. But in the meantime, while this illness is still with us, how can we create a quality of life for each person in each stage of the disease? How can we look deeper into situations that, at first glance, look hopeless and destructive in order to find opportunities for insight, inspiration, and great understanding of ourselves and those we love? How can we allow the full measure of the experience to unfold and be felt with as much of ourselves as we can bring to bear? This book will help people caring for those going through the difficult dementia journey find a way, through the tumultuous waves, to remain awake and open to the blessing of a journey that opens the heart, nurtures compassion, and ultimately enables each of us to be better human beings. It is also for those brave individuals living with memory loss illnesses, so that they be supported and allowed to live their experience fully in their own unique way, to express themselves, to love and be loved, and to be sheltered from harm—that with each stage of the progression, those around the person with dementia find ways to emphasize the loved one’s remaining strengths rather than spotlight their weaknesses. A person with dementia has a whole and well spirit and, in the broadest sense, their brain is a vehicle of self-expression; it does not define their essence. Finally, this book addresses head on the final stage of the disease, when the brain has exhausted all its compensatory ability and the individual is no longer able to take part in regular day-to-day life. At this advanced stage of the disease process, people with dementia are in a deep, internal state that caregivers generally cannot access and share. It can be a very disheartening time. This internal state separates the person with dementia from those around them; however, rather than thinking of it as a prison wall separating the person with dementia from the caregiver, it may be more helpful to think of the person having retreated into a cloistered existence for a while, affording them the time needed by the soul to attend to deeper aspect of the self on a spiritual level. This phase also allows those around the person to honor the vessel, or body, that has housed the loved in in this life and prepare to let them go. When ready the individual will know the time to leave, and if allowed, will let go. Coming from a rich professional background in caring, Megan Carnarius clearly outlines the different stages of dementia and highlights many practical aspects of dementia care, suggesting accessible tools for family and professionals alike. She also addresses the more subtle, spiritual dimensions of this illness with much compassion and understanding, offering new insights into areas that have not been explored in other books on the disease.
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