In our early years, we depend upon collaborative partnership with our parents. As they have more rewarding things to do, they encourage us to independence. That dance is conditioned by our safety, but leads into separation as we learn to walk, talk, feed, plan, and relate to our peers.
Part of what allows rapid growth and adaptation is that the brain recycles resources. That requires constant reinforcement of the circuitry that is most valuable to us.
As with all of our vital functions, that reinforcement decreases as we age. While not always the first or most visible symptom of aging, cognitive decline is the slow surrender of our higher mental capacities as the body fights to survive. As medical science has learned to prevent physical collapse, the evidence of mental collapse, or cognitive decline, has become more frequent.
As explained above, we expect cognitive decline to to be aging in reverse. (Observation of dementia would have been a natural inspiration for The Odd Case of Benjamin Button.) The principle challenge for those managing the well-being of the loved one is that naive behavior is no longer limited by physical immaturity. Irrational decisions have consequences that affect the entire household.
Fortunately, as expectations become simpler, what is revealed is the foundation of our personality: the capacity for emotional connection. The epidemic of cognitive decline requires that we as a culture focus on pioneering methods for emotional connection. Amazingly, we are guided toward mastery by the gradual loss of other forms of influence over our loved ones.
Nightingale Dementia Consultants
When tasked nearly twenty years ago to reform dementia care in the United Kingdom, Dr. Daniel Nightingale intuitively understood that the subconscious mind – the part responsible for our physical well-being – was panicked by the increasing incoherence of the directions coming from the conscious mind – the part that negotiates social expectations. Dr. Nightingale was inspired to couple:
- drug-free interventions that affirmed the dignity of the loved one with
- hypnosis that communicates the expectations of care-givers directly to the subconscious mind.
So long as all caregivers follow the care strategy, the loved one is able to conserve the parts of the mind that build social harmony, where otherwise those precious resources would be invested in avoidant and/or aggressive self-protection.
Brian is a member of a growing community – the Nightingale Dementia Consultants (NDCs) – trained in the methods pioneered by Dr. Nightingale, who now lives and practices in the United States. While the reading list below illustrates the increasing emphasis on drug-free interventions, NDCs are unique in their use of hypnosis.
In integrating Dr. Nightingale’s insights, Brian recognized that emotional connection is essential to fulfillment in our post-retirement years. The social conventions that structured our working years fall away, confronting us with the strengths and weaknesses of our character. Radically, Brian promotes an aggressive exploration of personal growth as the opportunity of our later years. As what we did for so long fades into irrelevance, we can seize the opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and strengthen the virtues that powered our success.
Hypnotherapy is again unique in emphasizing to the subconscious that resources once committed to honing skills should be redirected to the expression of our virtue. As heralded in all of our religions, that shift in focus leads to a deep and mature spiritual expression, something that is hard to achieve in younger years dominated by competitive concerns.
While many of the writers below encourage us to “enter the world of the loved one,” Brian courageously asserts that spiritual maturity is essential to social harmony long before dementia enters our lives. The surrender of ego dissolves the psychological barriers that separate us, allowing us to negotiate behavior without the limitation of words.
In some sense, the challenge of caring for those in cognitive decline is demanding that we learn this skill once found in rites of passage, now discarded in an era dominated by words and symbols shared through sophisticated communication networks.
Follow the link’s to Brian’s reviews. Cut-and-paste the titles into your browser search bar for ordering information.
- A Clinician’s Guide to Non-Pharmacological Dementia Therapies by Daniel Nightingale. For professional caregivers, this provides a fully integrated perspective on how to mitigate against the progression and effects of cognitive decline. Theoretical insights are supplemented with inspiring vignettes.
- The Montessori Alzheimer’s Project by Lyle Weinstein and Greg MacDonald. An intelligent and structured framework that builds sensitivity to the social and environmental factors that trigger anxiety during cognitive decline, with creative suggestions for addressing them.
- Montessori Works for Dementia by Stephen and Bernadette Phillips
- Elderhood by Louise Aronson
- Successful Aging by Daniel Leviton
- The Pocket Guide to Mouth and Dental Hygiene in Dementia Care by Daniel Nightingale
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