Living with Dementia: What's Wrong with Being a Little Childlike?
My daughter thinks I have become more "child-like". Or is it really that I have developed a better appreciation of life? I think that, perhaps, having researched, written, and taught "Strengthening Your Mind" classes has helped me develop into a happier person. I centered the first ten lessons I wrote on using your five senses to exercise your mind. These lessons have made me realize how much of life is overlooked in the busy dash of a normal day.
Using my sense of sight, I delight in a field of sunflowers or a tiny frog sitting in the shade just inside the shed door. I admit that I talk to things that I see, personifying them.
I KNOW the tiny frog is not human. I KNOW my cat is not talking to me. I just enjoy "playing the game", so to speak.
My sense of smell leads me to appreciate the air after an afternoon rain. Last week, while grocery shopping, I stopped two ladies and asked, "Which of you smells so good?" The young lady with Downs Syndrome smiled shyly and said, "It's me." This inhibition is new to me. I wouldn't have done that during my "normal" days.
Touch has always been important to me. I go through the department store, touching the clothing I pass. I enjoy the softness, fluffiness, and stiffness that my fingers feel. Often, some particular sensation will remind me of something in my past...like my stuffed bear...or the curtains in my bedroom fifty years ago.
I must say that I enjoy using my sense of taste immensely. The creamy iciness of ice cream takes me back to my early days...hot summer nights when my siblings and I would be treated to ice cream. I love trying to "feel" the different flavors in lasagna or pizza. It's definitely a challenge. You should try it!
Sound, I must admit, is the one area I don't use as much as the others. Probably because I've lost a moderate amount of hearing and use hearing aids.
One way I increase my sensory pleasure is to close my eyes. By eliminating one sense, the other senses are heightened. I especially do this during church. People who see me probably think I am sleeping through much of the service. They are so wrong. I close my eyes during times of recitation of prayer to help me concentrate. My memory becomes faulty when I am reciting and looking around. I easily become distracted, and then I forget what I am saying. I also close my eyes during the sermon. I listen with my ears. I internalize what is being said. I try to "see" how the Priest has organized his homily. That helps me to understand what he is saying. I repeat over and over in my mind the main idea of what he is saying. I "feel" his words through my entire body.
So, am I more childlike? It probably appears so. After all, don't children live their lives in abandonment? Aren't children more spontaneous? I guess that pretty much describes me... But, I am happy. Life is good. In many ways, life may be even better with dementia!