Poetry in the Midst of Dementia

Today was a difficult day. Many of the residents were not in good health. Two of them had bad falls. One, whom is very helpful and full of life and activity in spite of her dementia was have a difficult time staying awake. We have a staff member I do not trust whom some of the residents seem afraid. I fear why. So, I set and observed some of the residents I was caring for and they inspired these poems.

Sitting at the table
playing with a deck of cards
Not cards to him
But stories
What stories do these cards tell
I cannot know
His mind goes places in the past
Private places
Beyond the grasp of dementia
The cards only have meaning to him
Once a bright and brilliant man
now confined by a mental barrier
He did not expect
But does now accept
with a graciousness of charity
ingrained in a life of faith
trust and assurance
And now the cards tell stories
only he can understand 
What a good and sweet
Godly man

There is another resident. A woman, no two women, who walk. This is their poem.

Walking, walking, walking
but where does she go?
Around and around in a circle.
Is she searching?
Is she traveling"
Is she seeking for that 
    which is now lost?
Walking, walking, walking
back and forth around the room.
If you ask her why
    she cannot reply
but onward with determination
    she goes.
Sometimes she cries
sometimes she laughs
always looking forward as she goes.
Walking, walking, walking
    through the realm of dementia
    She goes
As God walks with her.

Please pray for people who are old and have the disability of dementia.

And This is Love

I remember when we met
It seems like yesterday
We set and talked, cried and laughed
I loved all she had to say

We did not go on many dates
I fact it was only one
When I asked her to be my wife
And then the wedding was on

Near eleven months to the day
Our first child arrived
Yet through all the trials and tests
Our love continued to thrive

Then another daughter came
And soon after came the third
As God moved us from place to place
Our love was still assured

The empty nest was not a strain
But the conflicts in churches hurt
And even in the face of this evil
Our love we would not desert

But in my life there came a time
When the darkness got to me
And I almost left because of pain
To end my life foolishly

While I lay lost to the world
This sweet love of mine did pray
That God would not let this end
In such a horrible way

I know not why I did not die
Except for her fervent prayer
Filled with her love and faithfulness
And never ending care

So today we are again quite poor
And struggle to make ends meet
But we are rich in our love
And once again life is sweet

DM-2021

Regret

Regret

If regret were a color
What color would it be
What range of the rainbow
Would our eyes see

If regret were clothing 
What texture would I feel
Would I find its touch
Making it more real

If regret could be molded
I wonder what it could make
What shape would it fit in
What form would it take

If regret was like money
What could it buy
Would it purchase luxury 
Or in poverty lie

If regret was a building
A place where we would live
Would it have light and hope
Or be dark and negative

Regret is such a strange thing
It is so difficult to know
If it is for our pain
Or a thing to help us grow

DM-2021 

Awakening the Spirit

The work I am getting paid for is to help residents in a memory care facility to have “fuller” lives. My position is called being a life enrichment assistant. With the context of being a life enrichment assistant I am seeking to be a life encouraging assistant (a term I have applied to my openness to providing spiritual direction to the residents I work with). As far as I know there is no training program of path to certification for becoming a spiritual director to individuals who have dementia.

What I am discovering is that the residents I work with have a drive and desire not only to maintain a spiritual life, they want to grow in their spiritual life. Most of them understand that they are not going to get better and that their next phase of life is the life to come. Most do not fear death. Most still grasp their need for God and continually express an interest not only in Christian practices, but how to deepen their practices and to expand their horizons of faith.

Take today for example. This morning I took time to focus on the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer). I say this prayer with the residents daily (usually two or three times during the day). Together the residents worked with me to break down the prayer in a way that helped many of them grasp a deeper meaning of what we are praying. We also talked about how they would likely not remember much of what we talked about due the the way their disability (dementia) works against short term memory. One of the participants made the statement, “I know I will not remember the discussion but I will remember I felt joy this morning as we spent time studying together.” Another resident added, “And when we prayer this prayer we will remember that it is important.”

My position at the place where I work is view and only an appendage to the “real” purpose of the facility which is sold to the consumers who use it as memory care. And while the place I work is by far better than most businesses who make money on taking care of adults who can no longer fully take care of themselves it is still more of an old adult prison that a community of human beings who deserve respect and dignity. Most of the employees are limited in education and/or training. Each day I see the staff (mostly young people in their twenties) treat the residents like children or as a necessary nuisance in order to get a paycheck. This breaks my heart. Also, the philosophy/theory behind how the staff is to deal with residents who become agitated or upset in their situation is to lie to them in order to bring them back to a state of “contentedness.” I cannot follow this path especially since I have seen the spiritual depth and insight the residents possess. So, I will seek to a a clandestine spiritual director and friend to these vulnerable and wonderful people.

The residents want, crave for spiritual stimulation. They enjoy talking about religious experiences and practices of their past. They can still use their past memories to help them cope with their daily struggles and can still have moments of discernment and insights that enable them to acknowledge their love for God and to be servants to one another. Tomorrow we are going to continue exploring the season of Lent we have entered and have discussions on how to practice compassion in the midst of their own struggles and with the struggles put on them through their loss of freedoms and a staff that can seem compassion-less at times.

Please pray for individuals with dementia an for those who care for them, especially the later. Also pray that this country, America, will see the need to reform and rethink how we treat those who struggle with dementia. Thank you.

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I Think it Odd


I think it odd
To question God
Or to doubt 
What God is about
Why would I 
Who will certainly die
Ever come to believe
That I could perceive
Through reason’s power
The meaning of a flower
Or to surmise
How a star can surprise
When all I know
Is a limited flow
Of feelings and thoughts
And plans and plots
Conceived and contrived
While I am alive
Only to disappear
When the grave is near
I know this is true
And so do you
Even though we my try
To call it a lie
These are the facts
That describe our acts
So what do we do
When our days are so few
Perhaps we should try
Not to wonder why
But instead seek to trust
In God who loves us
And live in the hope
So we might cope
As we wait for what is to be
In all eternity

Amen

DM-2021

A Smile as Prayer

A smile
   with sincere intent
Can open up a small
   place
in the heart of one 
   who seems forgotten

A simple act
  grounded in true compassion
Awakens a joy
  near dead
In the life of one 
  of old age

A head now bowed
   as the fleeting joy
leaves
And the soul returns
   to the place 
it awaits its end.

Amen

DM-2021    

This poem is dedicated to person whose smile tells me she is still alive and is still experiencing the greatest gift God gives, the gift of love.

Consolation Prayer


Lord of creation, Lord of joy
Lord of all that is good and just
Please hear my cry 
Please touch my heart

Lord of mercy, Lord of peace
Lord of all that we ever need
Please hear my prayer
Please let me feel love

Lord of passion, Lord of relief
Lord of all whose pain is real
Please hear my moaning
Please heal my soul

Lord of hope, Lord of care
Lord of all light and warmth
Please hear my doubts
Please comfort my concerns

Lord of consolation, Lord of patience
Lord of insight and conviction
Please hear my words
Please open my mind.

Amen

DM-2021         2/14/2021
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How Do You

How do you fill the emptiness
And fear
Of an anxious, troubled mind
Or calm the powerful uneasiness
And worry
When there is no peace to find

How do you cope with darkness
And regret
Of memories that will not go away
Or the feelings of sickness
And loss
When you have lost your way

How do you escape the hostility
And anger
Of wrongs never made right
Or distance yourself from hopelessness
And apathy
When facing a horrible plight

How do you forgive the prejudice
And bias
Of a culture run amuck
Or ignore the stupidity
And foolishness
When with chaos you are stuck

There are no easy answers
Or solutions
Of the quick and simple choice
Or placid painless pathways
Or directions
When compassion loses its voice

So I look for another possibility
And strength
Of the power faith can give
Or give myself to dreams
And visions
When only in them can I live

DM-2021          2/14/2021

The Profit of Dementia

She sat alone in her chair
And all alone she cries
This life we live is seldom fair
As the tears drip from her eyes

He memories are fading
And her strength is all but gone
A life of one so faithful
Makes all of this seem wrong

She dwells in an old person prison
Where she has be sent to die
Abandon and nearly forgotten
Does anyone care why

In a country of pseudo freedom
Where cost and convenience are king
Old people are a burden
Except for the profit they can bring

Care is sold by salesmen
Who are good at what they do
Giving the illusion
They will care for them for you

So the old are locked up tightly
And lied to all the time
Cared by minimum wage workers
In some countries this is a crime

Honor your mothers and fathers
Treat the old with respect
Have we become so callous
That we tolerate this neglect

I wish that I had answers
And could change what I see
But money speaks more loudly
And they will not listen to me

DM-2021

Reflections of a Walk

Water dripped from barren branches
On a gray and dismal day
There was no sound of chirping 
For the birds had flown away

The pathway wet and muddy
There was no life in sight
The wind was moody and contrary
As the cold still had it bite

My steps were slow and heavy
As with each there came a pain
Old bones are the first to know
When comes a winter rain

I think back to the days of Fall
And before them Summer and Spring
And cherish the days gone past
As only memories can bring

Yet those though are growing darker
Just like those of Winter days
As they seem to lose their color
As they blend with forgotten ways

I feel my time is ending
Even though the path goes on
I wonder if it will matter
When this old soul if finally gone

DM-2021     2/13/2021