For most of us we know what it means to live and have purpose in our life and when we see something that we do not like we can generally change it and move to new challenges and new goals with a sense of commitment and well-being and living life to the fullest. We have a lot of control in what we do and in what direction we go.
For many of the special people that we care for and/or encounter, especially those battling a cognitive impairment within our communities, hospitals and care homes, they have forgotten how to live, have little purpose in life and for some the essence of who they are has been lost due to others only seeing their cognitive impairment. We must help them to find themselves again and to regain their dignity and respect. In order to do that we need to know who they are, what did their life look like, what makes them laugh and cry, what comforts them.
Finding the core spirit of a person takes time, patience, understanding and trust but getting there can take us on a fascinating journey. From their place of birth, family background, relationships within the family, pets, happy times and sad times, to favourite music, spirituality and culture.
To use the example of music which has shown to provide many people living with dementia a sense of enjoyment, we could play their favourite music, sit together with feet tapping, sing or dance together. This very simple and meaningful interaction creates a shared activity and interest and promotes expressions of familiarity and belonging.
When their personality re-emerges from their story it can be energising, motivating and spontaneous and allows the person to be ‘free’ from constraints and controlling care. The Carer’s interactions are enhanced because of the insight into the life of the person and their achievements and helps to build the picture and enables connections and development of relationships, thus guiding us to find the ‘real person’.
Helping someone to live life in their way and to give them a sense of purpose and belonging is to enable that person to flourish, to feel a richness from the abundance of love, respect and freedom that we all cherish.