One of my friends has a parent who has been admitted to memory care. My friend is wondering what is going on for her parent, what is happening spiritually when a person experiences cognitive decline. I have wondered about this too. I watched my own father’s journey with dementia. He was very good at hiding it, not so much because he meant to keep it from us (although there was some of that), but because he had so many other cognitive resources. I think he just kept developing work-arounds. I can relate to that, the way way I have had to learn to function differently after brain injury. But my condition is relatively static. People like my father and my friend’s parent are experiencing a long, continual decline.

What happens spiritually during this cognitive decline? I felt that my father was spending more and more time in the Dream World, and that the Dream World was often present in his Physical World as well. There was some kind of bleed-through or overlap. Is there anyone who would like to speak to us about this situation?

The Teachers are present, and someone is getting pushed forward, but she seems shy about speaking. She is a woman in her 20s with fair skin and short, dark hair. She looks like my mother in the 1950s, flared skirt and red lipstick, white anklets. I never had a very good relationship with my mother, and I am struggling with my own judgments while trying to be open to her.

She seats herself before me, fluffing her skirt before sitting. She is eager and ebullient.
Jeanie:  I have been waiting my turn to come.
She is resting her shoulders on her hands, which are tucked under her thighs. She keeps looking back at the other Teachers for encouragement.
I want to talk about this because, you know, I went through this before I came here. I didn’t really like that place I had to stay

[the memory unit]. I would have rather been in my own home. People seemed crazy in the care home. But we were all really in the same boat. Some were more crazy than others. I had Bill [her husband, my father] to help anchor me, but other people just went totally into this other space, because there was nothing to hold them back. I could still be somewhat in my Earth Life, even though I was moving towards the other situation. 

The day I died, it was so sudden, I was just minding my own business and then they came and got me. They came and I went. I was happy to see them because it seemed like a door just opened and I went right through it. Some of the other people on the ward had already gone through the door but their bodies were continuing on in the Earth World. Then there is a kind of disconnect. It’s why you can’t reach them, because they really are not there, not on the physical plane, with their minds.

There isn’t much you can do about that. It’s not necessarily better to come back into the body anyway. It’s just something you have to accept. That’s hard for the family, I think, because they can’t see the other world where their mother or father or whoever went to. They just know that their family member is not there. 

It’s a hard thing to watch. I went through that with my own mother [who died of Alzheimers]. You just don’t know what to do, because they’re not there, but they are. You can’t reach them. You don’t have the usual feedback from caring for someone, which makes it feel futile. 

I guess you could think of it like “How would you want to have your house taken care of if you were away for a few years”. You’re not coming back, ever, but the house is still standing there, with everything in it that you ever loved. That’s your body. You try to dress them and feed them and keep them safe. That’s maintenance. No one is thanking you or even enjoying what you’re doing for them, because the Spirit is away. Not 100%, but enough to make it difficult to respond. 

Here is where body, mind, and spirit come together. The body is still going, the mind is not, and the Spirit is around but traveling in other dimensions. It’s a little like a sleep that you don’t wake up from. Imagine if you were living in your dreams. There is not much you can do with your body there. Sometimes people “wake up” briefly, from some kind of familiar sense like music or taste. But it will never be enough to keep them awake.

I think that the actual state is not so painful for the person with dementia. They have less and less awareness of the five sense world. But people around them in the five sense world have to deal with it. Whether you are the State, or the health care worker, or the family. And everyone has their own skills for managing it. This is a first world problem. A real problem, for sure, but it just didn’t occur much in earlier times. People died of something else before they got old enough to lose brain function. Or if they did, they were cared for by family until some natural event (like illness) took their lives. Westerners are so afraid of death that they do anything to avoid it, even when death would be a mercy.

I’m not saying that there isn’t some benefit to this whole situation. It gives Westerners a chance to examine their own spiritual lives, and their spiritual connection with their family member, and see how different people deal with things like this. It’s all about learning, isn’t it. It’s about taking all of these experiences that you have, and, not making sense out of them but integrating them into your ability to see further. 

That’s what is needed––the ability to see further into the Universe. Not to get stuck in the five sense world and try to control everything. But to let go and allow and see deeper.

Flow. That makes me think of dancing. I loved dancing, even though I did not get to do it very much. Yes, it was hard when my legs quit working [from Parkinson’s], but by then my mind was deteriorating too and I just couldn’t do it anyway. I just couldn’t do much of anything. I liked being taken care of by my husband, I liked that attention. I did not like being taken care of in the nursing home, because those people didn’t see me. Some did. But it was a bad existence and I’m glad I got to leave that. 

Do you have advice for people who are caring for family members.
Oh, I don’t know. Comfort is nice, I suppose. Which means things that you recognize, if you can even recognize them. I would say just stop worrying about it so much and enjoy being with your family member. Have some parties. Have people around. Laugh. Don’t be all grumpy about it. It’s not like we can control it any more than you! We might as well be having a good time.

What are you doing when your body is in the five sense world and your spirit is somewhere else.
She leans in as if to tell me a secret, and whispers mischievously,
Well, wouldn’t you like to know?!
Haha. Of course I would, that’s why I am asking.
That is not my area. You are going to have to ask someone else. I’m new here, you know.
And now I’ve gotta go.
She gets up and turns to wave to me as she leaves.
Buh bye!
What a sunny disposition. I have to smile.