Home?

The topic of “Home” is back in the wind again. I have noticed an influx of new articles writing about how to respond to someone who states they want to go home, and how to look at aging in place (and its meaning) or moving into a care community. In my own life the last of the homes I knew as a child has sold. Now, both of my grandparent’s homes and the one I spent most of my childhood in are no longer in our family. New places are called home and the swirl of boxes still fill our days.

I find myself longing for home, the physical place and the memories that filled that place. I find myself longing for the people who were home. I find myself longing for my spiritual home, the parish that I grew up in and the one that filled its place after it was time to move on. Home is so many things and as diverse and there are people, not this planet. Home includes the physical structure sure, but also the items that fill the home that carry a story. Home is the people and the emotions experienced at your house or the homes of loved ones. Home is the church you attend and the community you choose to invite into your lives. Home is a place in our memory and one we can go back to still today.

When one calls out for home, it is our job to be curious and compassionate. We are called to be explorers, to see how we might fill this moment and this place with a sense of home. Is the individual referring to the physical structure or the feelings and memories created in those places? Is it the home they lived in as children? As young adults? Raised their family in? Or last lived in? Is home Heaven? How do we, as partners in care, help provide that same comfort, safety, or joy in each individual’s current place of residence?

Our job is to become relational with these individuals, understanding what brings them joy, what memories they long for, and the type of people they want to surround themselves with, the faith community they want to be apart of, and the type of items of meaning they want in their space.

The topic of Home is complex and not always easy to navigate. By becoming relational with the individuals (with dementia or not) who are asking to go home, we can learn what they mean by “home” and profoundly impact their day, if not their life by helping them find home in this moment.

May All Be Wealthy

My wish is that all those living with dementia are wealthy. Um, what? Yes, wealthy. Not wealthy in terms of having a lot of money in your investment portfolio, although wouldn’t that be nice. I am speaking of a different kind of wealth. My wish is that all those living with dementia have hope and community. As caregivers and as fellow persons living with dementia, each one of us can play a role in this wealth. 

When we speak of hope, there a grand hope that one day a cure will be found, that care communities will truly become home for those that live there, that persons with dementia will be universally accepted as part of the conversation and education of dementia, and that every town across the globe can call themselves dementia friendly. These are the grand hopes that blog posts, speeches, and research grants place at their core. There are also little hopes, hopes that we can foster each and every day. Hope does not need to be for the years ahead or even the next day. There is wealth of hope if all we have hope for is the next moment. To have hope for an afternoon visit, a chat with a neighbor, an outing or activity we enjoy later that day, a good meal, a smile from someone we see, a moment of peace. If we help foster hope by the way we conduct our care, become relational with the individual, and in our planning of outings, actives, and meals, we allow for each person living with dementia to be wealthy in hope. We cannot force someone to become hopeful, or tell them they must be filled with hope, but we can foster the growth of it, and much like a laugh, it is contagious. 

We seek community, all of us do in some way or another. For some a community of three is just right, for others, the larger the better. Wherever one sits on that spectrum, if we have that community we seek, we are wealthy. We are beings designed for connection and without connection, through isolation, well…that can kill us. Our physical and mental health relies on having a community. When someone has dementia, that need for community becomes even more important in order to maintain a quality of life. Let us be present and community to one another. 

Yes, my hope is that all living with dementia are wealthy. Wealthy in hope and community, two kinds of wealth where money is not counted.