Stuck in-between research and the human heart is where you will find most care partners. They are family members, friends, CNAs, doctors, life enrichment teams, care community staff, and partner organizations. It is in this middle ground where the language of the academic and medical word gets shuffled around as we try to make sense of it all. It is in this middle ground where we battle with the practices of using medicine as a crutch and the false belief that the human spirit is simply not enough. The truth is, medicine is not a crutch, and the human spirit is enough.
We need visionaries in aging and dementia to become the leaders guiding us out of the mucky middle ground and into clarity and greater hope. The middle ground is often where we want to be. It is where ideas blend and strengthen each other. It is the middle ground where we think we will find joy and forward-moving action, yet it has made us complacent in care. The middle ground has turned into a place of safety where we are debilitated by the fear of harm, behaviors, and the powers that could shut us down.
There is so much we don’t know about dementia, but there is a lot we do know. If we ever get lost, let us find those with the diagnosis and ask them to guide us out of this middle ground and to a place where we stand on top of the medicine, research, and the human spirit. May we ask them to show us how to infuse our work with humanity and the care they are truly seeking.
I am not sure if you have noticed or not, but there are incredible people out there doing amazing work in aging and dementia. They work and live in every area and are academics, medical professionals, artists, individuals living with dementia, clinicians, and educators. Everyone from Teepa Snow to Anne Basting, to Dr. Bill Thomas and Becca Levy, to Brian LeBlanc and Kate Swaffer. These people and many MANY more have risen to the top of the list simply because they are visionaries and guides willing the good of the other. They have taken medical terms and infused meaning into them, they have called us out when we may be drifting too far one way or the other. They are the visionaries and guides we need, which leads to the question,
If we are not visionaries in aging, are we then complacent care providers?
If we are not looking forward, then are we finding ourselves running in circles complaining about (or worse, no longer caring about) the state of our care communities and providers? If we are not using our imagination and knowledge of what we and others truly need, are we causing harm while trying to keep the status quo?
Encouraged by the power of creativity and positive thinking about aging and dementia infusing our daily conversations melded with our collective experience of the harm of isolation over this past year, may we have the courage. May we have the courage to stand on the foundation of the medical, academic, and simple beauty of the human spirit, daring to become visionaries in aging and dementia? We can tend to think that there can only be so many visionaries, guides, and leaders in any given profession or area of work, and I am here to tell you that is false. Each one of us is called to this role. With our skill set, time, and energy in tow, each one of us has the capability to create something new, unknown, with a lasting positive impact, helping all of us live fully alive on this earth.
Let us not be known for our complacently, but for our vision, courage, and creativity as we work and live in a world with dementia.