It is estimated that 35.6 million people worldwide are living with dementia in 2010. If the rate of increase continues in the same way this number will almost double every 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.It is easy to get stuck in the statistics and get caught up in the fear, worry and sense of helplessness that such numbers create in us. We can stand back and believe we are powerless to do anything about it, or we can explore this phenomenon from a completely different perspective.
About 18 years ago my mother began to develop dementia.
Initially the signs were so subtle we didn’t realise what was happening. But eventually she forgot the names of friends, appointments, places and even the difference between a cup and a knife. Friends began to stop calling and eventually they all but dropped away.
I began to realise two things. The first was that friends did not know how to respond to the loss of the person they had once known, and they certainly didn’t know how to respond to the person my mother was becoming. The old ways of relating that required memory no longer worked.
The second was that Dementia itself holds up a mirror and reflects back to us all our own fears and insecurities. Indeed dementia is a transition for all concerned. Everyone touched in some way by dementia, whether it is a family member, a friend or a customer who frequents your shop, will change. The choices we make will always take us to another place.
If we choose to look at the issues and dynamics of dementia only, the changes, the impact of families and friends, the needs of carers, I believe we are missing a vital point. It is so easy to get caught up in the appearance of everything but it is only when we stand back and look at the significance of something that we give ourselves the space to see it from a new perspective.
People with dementia have lost their anchor. One of the things that keep us anchored in the here and now is our connection to the earth and its cycles. When we let go of the land, we become vulnerable. Humanity has more and more let go at being one with the land and instead it dominates
the landscape. We have begun to bow down to technological genius and erroneously believe it to be more significant than a sunrise. We can feel tired and rushed and pressured and yet ,when the sun sets and the earth invites us to rest, we often ignore her invitation.
People with dementia are not grounded. Being grounded means being fully present: physically, emotionally and energetically. It means our mind is not wandering or pulling our energy elsewhere. We have forgotten how to balance our lives through nature. Many people have forgotten how to connect to the Earth. We are no longer aware of the cycles of the seasons.
We have lost our healthy respect for the elements, fire, water, air and earth.
We live in a society where multi-tasking is the norm. There has been research done into multitasking and it is unanimously agreed that the brain simply isn’t very good at spreading its energy between different things. As a consequence, because of what is being allowed to develop unchecked and un-balanced, those of us who need an anchor, loose it. When we separate from the land we are at the mercy of the powerfully ungrounding forces of technology.
I come from a perspective that we create our own experiences, indeed we are masters in our own lives. And so I pose this question for us all to consider. Is it possible that the way we live, particularly in our western society has in some way contributed to the increase in dementia and if so, what are we, you and me, going to do about it?
Sharon Snir is a practising gestalt psychotherapist, teacher and writer, who gives regular local and international workshops and lectures. Her first book, The 12 Levels of BEING is a system of energy that helps us understand and use the 12 universal levels of consciousness. Her latest book, Looking for Lionel- How I lost and Found my Mother through Dementia, is available is all good book stores throughout Australia and New Zealand and through her website www.sharonsnir.com