Making space for dementia: how two people’s approach to care made such a difference to someone living with dementia
Yo Tozer-Loft is a professional singer and storyteller, a mother, a wife – and a carer. She cared for her father, who had a dementia diagnosis, for two years until he died. She tells us here about the impact that reaching out to someone with advanced dementia can have on the person and those around them.
My dad was ordained. When he was living with us with an advanced dementia, he didn’t really know who I was, he had lost a lot of language and processing ability and was seen by most new people as greatly limited if not completely incapacitated as a man, let alone as a priest.
Two people saw clearly to my father’s soul and wholeness as a minister in this time.
A nurse with faith and prayer
One was a woman who visited us in her capacity as a nurse. Realising dad was a priest, she said: “Reverend, you must give me a Christmas blessing!’, at which she knelt down at his feet, bowed her head and waited.
He laid his hand on her shoulders and blessed her perfectly with words he had used so many times in his prime but had not uttered in years, from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
I stood in the hallway and cried, ever grateful to the nurse for her faith and confidence that God could still work through my dad’s heart-gift of service.
Tatoos and blessings
‘Similarly, I used to take dad to a little informal service in a Christian nursing home once a month. One of the carers, a guy who was outwardly very ordinary, tattooed and in my opinion, humble, was leading the service. My dad loved the hymns and sang with gusto but couldn’t say much otherwise, having lost touch with so much spoken language. This part of his condition was obvious to all.
‘I was surprised and wide-eyed when this lovely guy called my dad by name and said: “Would you like to close in prayer?” We all waited patiently and rather uncertainly until my dad said slowly: “Thank you Lord…for this beautiful…beautiful time together.”
‘Both these instances touched me deeply. It’s so important to create spaces and opportunities for people with a dementia to express the best of what they can give. These carers were intuitive, expectant and patient. We can learn so much from them.’Read more about Yo Tozer-Loft and her advice on being a carer here.