32. “Discussing Dementia 2: On Caring” at Forster UCA

 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near … Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:6, 7b-9).

~

On 4th August (2018) I had the privilege of leading “Discussing Dementia 2: On Caring” at Forster Uniting Church. 59 attended and joined me on the journey. I commend their courage, and hope that the work being done to make Forster a “dementia-friendly community” will soon be rich fruit.

While I, and all of the participants, have different thoughts about what it is like to care for someone living with dementia, only God knows the exact picture. We may have different ways of understanding dementia and responding to it, but only God knows the best way – and so we turn to the Lord for help and mercy. We can also turn to the Lord to help us forgive: forgive those for whom we care, forgive friends and family who may not be as helpful as they could be, and forgive ourselves when patience runs thin or runs out. God’s ways and thoughts are thankfully higher than ours.

A carer's perspective

Since leading “Discussing Dementia 2: On Caring” in Tamworth earlier this year, I have made a few changes. One of these is to include a video clip entitled “A Carer’s Perspective”. This comes from the University of Tasmania MOOC “Understanding Dementia”. This video is also the basis for a Case Study in the unit CAD104, one of the units in the Bachelor of Dementia Care degree.

In the video clip a carer named Irene Jacobs is interviewed by her friend Dr. Carolyn King. It is an honest interview, one that will hopefully challenge your thoughts, and help you to change your ways. You can watch the video here:

I give thanks that Irene had the courage to speak to Carolyn, and that this clip has been freely shared through the “Understanding Dementia” MOOC. I don’t know where her husband David is in his dementia journey, but please remember Irene and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

With blessings,

Signature to use

 

31. Technology – Dementia Australia

Ears that hear and eyes that see – the Lord has made them both (Proverbs 20:12).

~

DA - Every 3 seconds

It is impossible to fully understand what it is like to be living with dementia. We can learn to see more clearly with our eyes, and hear more clearly with our ears, but we can’t enter another person’s brain, body and spirit.

In blog post number 27 I mentioned the wonderful Dementia Australia training course named EDIE – Educational Dementia Immersive Experience. Having done it last year, I can highly recommend it to you.

This afternoon I came across an English TV clip that shows the work of Dementia Australia in their Virtual Reality and Computer games. The clip definitely shows how both of these technologies bring a positive change to people’s lives. I was delighted to see that it includes the EDIE experience.

So, here’s a teaser for EDIE:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rgx_yqRYsIU

It is my hope and prayer that such technology may help many more people, whether or not they live with dementia, to see and to hear – remembering that the Lord who made our eyes and ears also sees and hears with us.

With blessings,

Signature to use

30. Understanding Dementia MOOC 2018 – ABC Radio

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? … Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:12-14, 17).

~

UD 1

In blog post number 26 I spoke about the Understanding Dementia MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) being run by the University of Tasmania. Over 20,000 have people enrolled in the July 2018 MOOC!

I have just come across an ABC Radio interview which talks about the MOOC. It reminded me of the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. He gives us a wonderful promise that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, and then asks a very important question: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?

The MOOC is truly wonderful – I promise that! But people won’t know about it unless people like me, and you, tell others (preach) about it. That’s one reason I began this blog. It’s also the reason why I am doing the Bachelor of Dementia Care.

So, let me share this ABC Radio interview with you. It will help to explain what the MOOC all about. It goes for about eight and a half minutes, and will hopefully whet your appetite!

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/statewideweekends/mm-for-web/9993816

St. Paul boldly states that the Lord richly blesses all who call on him. I hope that you will be richly blessed as you listen to this interview, and when you eventually do the MOOC.

With blessings,

Signature to use

29. To drive or not to drive

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

~

I am asked the same question almost every time I lead Discussing Dementia 1 or 2. The question is all about driving. To misquote Shakespeare: “to drive or not to drive, that is the question”.

Senior Driving

My dear mother lived with both vascular and Lewy Body dementia. As she aged, and as the symptoms of her dementia increased, it soon became apparent that her driving was becoming erratic. She would brake late and hence brake heavily. She never got lost, though she did get confused about where she was going, and how to get back home. She always hating reversing the car, and her lack of confidence gradually increased. We became more and more concerned about her driving, but it was a sign of her independence and freedom, and she wasn’t willingly going to surrender it. We were intending to speak to her GP about it, but thankfully she had a small bingle while reversing the car in a car park. There was little damage to either vehicle, but Mum was shaken. She decided that it was time to stop driving, and so with great relief she gave up her licence.

The writer of Ecclesiastes puts it well: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. There is a time when people should have a licence to drive a car, and a time when they shouldn’t. The old adage contains more than an element of truth: “I have been driving for 60 years and I’ve never had an accident!” That may be true, but I could well ask: “Yes, but how many have you caused?”

I commute five days a week on the M1 motorway from the Central Coast to Sydney, which is 3 lanes wide. Besides an actual accident and the resulting traffic jam (sometimes up to 8 km long), the worst thing I encounter is a driver in the middle lane doing well below 110. Some of them are quite oblivious to the drivers who, in frustration, are overtaking them on both the left and the right. The sign “Keep left unless overtaking” doesn’t seem to apply, probably because they ARE driving on the left of the right-hand lane! I have lost count of the number of near-misses caused by this poor driving. Surely there is a time when people’s driving needs to be tested once again, and it’s not when they’re in their 80s.

Lost very lost

So what’s wrong with people living with dementia still driving? In the early phases it’s usually alright. However, as my Mum’s story shows, there are two important factors to consider. The first is that people may become lost. If they’re on foot it’s easier to find them because they usually can’t walk too far. If they’re in the car it’s a different matter altogether. The more confused they become, the more lost they feel, the more likely it is that they will make a bad decision. When I am not sure where I’m going I set my navigator, and it politely tells me where to go. If I’m in the wrong lane I may quickly change lanes, or else quickly turn off the road – hopefully having checked for other traffic and using my indicators. The confusion or anxiety of feeling lost doesn’t make for good decision-making.

Brain slows down

The other vital factor is that as we age our brains do not work as quickly. Our reaction times slow down. Dementia can slow down our reaction times considerably, as a damaged brain needs to compensate. So, when I see that the car in front of me suddenly brakes, I need to suddenly brake also. If my brain takes longer to notice the other car’s brake light, and my brain takes longer to instruct my leg and foot to brake, the result can be disastrous. If the road is wet and slippery, and you haven’t left enough room to brake, applying the brake may not be able to prevent a bingle. Hopefully you’ll collide with less speed and hence cause less damage.

So, the problem with driving is not just that people living with dementia get lost. It’s the fact that eventually their reaction time may become too slow in order to drive safely. The car is a wonderful piece of machinery, but like many inventions it is only as good as its operator.

Stop driving

So, what do you do if you’re concerned about someone’s driving? Speak to them first. Try, try, and try again. They may accept the need to stop driving – just like my Mum. If they don’t, and their driving has become unsafe, it’s time to call in the GP. Let the GP be the one to remove their licence. You can then say that it was the GP who did it, not me! You also need to be practical. Hide the car keys! If the car is no longer needed, then sell it. It’s impossible to drive a car which isn’t there. (As an aside, it is usually cheaper to catch taxis than to own and maintain a car. That wouldn’t work for my commute on the M1, but for short trips to the shops it’s ideal. Let someone else drive).

Staying on the move cover

Because driving is such a big issue, the NRMA has produced both a booklet and brochure. I have included them below. They are well worth reading:

NSW-Staying-on-the-move-with-dementia-brochure

NSW-Staying-on-the-move-with-dementia-booklet

My friends, there is a time for everything. There may well be a time when we need to stop driving. It’s better if, like my Mum, we decide that for ourselves. As we age, and as illness takes its inevitable toll, we need to be realistic. As the Serenity prayer puts it so well, we need to “accept the things we cannot change”.

With blessings,

Signature to use

 

 

28. Joy with Jarah

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds … And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” … God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:24-31a excerpts).

~

I regularly lead worship with people living with dementia, and find that I use Genesis 1 far more than other Bible passages. Why? Because it talks about God, Creation, Humankind, and our job to care for Creation. I might talk about animals or birds or mountains or rivers, regularly repeating the line: “God saw that it was good”. I then tell my saints that God created us –men and women – male and female. We are made by God and loved by God. God sees us and He doesn’t just say we are “good” – but “very good”! I say “God looks at you, and me, and says that we are very good, very good”! My spirit is filled with joy when some of them smile, or say “Oh”, or on one occasion, clap their hands. I have spoken the truth, and the truth – that they are very good – sets them free.

We will then sing that wonderful hymn “All things bright and beautiful”: All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.

Jarah

In April my wife and I were thrilled to pick up our new cocker spaniel puppy Jarah. Jarah is Hebrew for “honey” and “God is sweetness”. She is honey-coloured after all, and is very sweet. When she was fully vaccinated I took her into Northaven at Turramurra, the Hostel and Nursing Home where I am privileged to serve as Chaplain. I thought that some “puppy therapy” might be good for the residents and staff, and I wasn’t wrong! Jarah is timid by nature, and so when she sees people she doesn’t know is very placid. Her small size and cute face means that people aren’t afraid of her either. She really is a sweetie.

I led Jarah around the building, allowing people to pat her or hold her. Because many residents are in waterchairs or beds, I asked them if they would like to pat Jarah, and if they agreed, I’d lift her up. Sometimes I held her. Sometimes I would put her on their beds or put her in their arms, and they could give her a cuddle. Because I have trained Jarah not to lick she didn’t try and lick their hands or faces. (The exception was the resident whose hands were covered in vegemite. That was too much of a temptation for a four month old puppy).

There are lots of stories I could have put on paper, but I chose two: Jim and Judy. Both of these Nursing Home residents are in the final stage of dementia: “’Dignity with comfort”. I have known both of them for 4-5 years so they trust me and like me. Here’s their stories.

Jim is in a waterchair in the Nursing Home. He has lost the ability to speak and sleeps most of the time. I asked Jim if he would like to meet my cocker spaniel puppy Jarah and he nodded. I lifted her up and placed her front paws on Jim’s waterchair, holding her body securely to my chest. Jim looked at Jarah for a long while. Jarah stood still, looking into his eyes. Jim smiled, and ever so slowly moved his hand forward and touched Jarah. Her tail began to wag in appreciation, to Jim’s obvious delight. Jim continued to pat Jarah on her head, clearly enjoying this time with her. After a few minutes he withdrew his hand, smiled, sighed, and drifted contentedly off to sleep. Jim didn’t speak a word, but this picture painted far more than a thousand words.

Judy rarely speaks, and can only walk with the assistance of two staff members. She often smiles, and is normally content just to sit in a comfortable chair and cuddle her toy bear. When I walked Jarah up to Judy she came alive. She smiled, clapped her hands, laughed and squealed, and reached down to give Jarah a pat. Judy was overjoyed. She said “What a glorious puppy” followed by “Lovely dog”, repeating variants of these sentences over the next few minutes. Judy took both hands off her toy and stroked Jarah, much to Jarah’s delight. Even as I led Jarah to another resident Judy was watching her and smiling. Her bear was forgotten for at least 15 minutes afterwards, as Judy revelled in her honey-coloured joy.

There were lots of people around who saw what was going on. They knew that it was good. But God was there too. God saw, and God said, that this was very good.

With blessings,

Signature to use

 

 

27. EDIE

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it …. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4, 14).

~

Nativity

I don’t about you, but I find that it is very easy to sentimentalise Christmas. A baby boy is born to a devout young couple in Bethlehem, is wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough. The Christmas cards make it seem so nice. Carols like “Away in a manger” boldly declare “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. That doesn’t sound like any baby that I know.

The reality is hardly nice. This young couple are forced by an Emperor’s decree to leave their home and journey to Bethlehem, despite the fact that Mary is full-term. Her birth is no different to any other woman’s. We don’t know if Joseph is the only midwife, and there certainly isn’t any humidicrib. It’s hardly sentimental.

In one sense the baby boy is no different to any other baby boy, yet in another sense he is infinitely different. For this baby was the eternal Word, God Himself, the Creator of all things. He “became flesh”, born as a baby, and made his “dwelling” – his home – among humankind. A friend of mine put it this way: “God took kneecaps and eyebrows”.

I don’t understand how Jesus could be both God and man. I simply accept the mystery of it. But I do understand that it says something profound about God. God knows what it’s like to be human because God became human. Jesus knew hunger and thirst, work and rest, joy and sadness.  He wowed them at a wedding, and shed tears at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus was like us, in every way! He understands. Always.

Jesus, because He’s God, understands what it is like to live with dementia. He doesn’t sentimentalise it, and knows that it isn’t nice. While Jesus does not prevent us from getting dementia, He does promise to be with us always: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, dementia and death is not the end. Jesus promises eternal life, with a new body and brain, to all who will follow Him. That’s the Gospel – the Good News.

the-gospel

Jesus understands what it is like to live with dementia, but we don’t. We can observe those who are living with dementia, but we can’t actually enter into their mind and body and experience it for ourselves.

Thanks to Dementia Australia we can, however, gain a glimpse of what it is like to live with dementia. Welcome to EDIE: Educational Dementia Immersive Experience.

EDIE 2018.06 brochure 1

EDIE is an “Immersive Experience” because we immerse ourselves into Edie’s life. Edie is living with dementia. We immerse oursevles by wearing special goggles (Virtual reality goggles) and headphones, so that we “see” what Edie is experiencing and “hear” what he is hearing. We also meet Edie’s wife.

EDIE 2018.06 brochure 2

Having been to an EDIE session I can highly recommend it. It is certainly educational, in both an intellectual and emotional manner. The immersion is challenging and motivational. It’s also fun – and that helps in the learning.

If you’d like to know more then make contact using the details below:

EDIE 2018.06 brochure 3

Once you’ve done EDIE you will certainly never sentimentalise it. It isn’t nice. But you’ll understand that people living with dementia need not be misunderstood. They have those who are willing to learn about dementia, whether through EDIE or the University of Tasmania MOOCs, or in other ways. But most importantly, they have a God who knows what it’s like to be human: a God who, in Jesus, took kneecaps and eyebrows.

With blessings,

Signature to use

 

26. Understanding Dementia MOOC 2018

 

Praise the Lord … He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble … (Psalm 147:1-6a).

~

The Psalmist begins by inviting us to “Praise the Lord”, and then tells us exactly who the Lord is: healer, creator, and sustainer. God is not too great or mighty to care for those who are broken-hearted and wounded. That includes those who are living with dementia. While there is no limit to God’s understanding, our understanding is sadly limited. However, with God’s help and our effort, any of us can grow in our understanding of dementia.

In 2014 I had the privilege of completing the “Understanding Dementia” MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through the University of Tasmania. As its name suggests, this is an online course which helps people to understand dementia. I was able to work at my own pace without having to do any exams. The lectures were given by qualified academics who had chosen excellent videos and clips. The whole course was free of charge, and I even received a certificate at the end.

In 2016 I completed the next in the series: “Preventing Dementia”. This was equally informative and sound.

My own “Discussing Dementia” presentations not only refer to these two MOOCs, but present some of their material. After all, why reinvent the wheel?

UD 1

UD 2

UD 3

Registrations for the next “Understanding Dementia” MOOC end on 31st July. The course begins anytime from 10th July, so if you register after the 10th you will be able to start straightaway. It is wonderful to see that 8,000 people had already registered by 5th July.

You may be interested in the poster:

UOTWI171211-A3-Poster_vFA

The following link will take you to the UTAS site:

https://mooc.utas.edu.au/landing/pr8share

Do yourself and do others a favour. Learn more about dementia, and take your part in working with God to heal some of the broken-hearted and to bind up their wounds.

With blessings,

Signature to use