Dementia can cause strong emotional reactions in the care partner

Transforming the Dementia Journey

“When we are unable to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl When people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or any other form of dementia, they and their care partners embark on a long journey…
Share opportunities to care by drawing up a roster of visits from friends and family

Keeping connected as caregivers

This disease is isolating. Friends recede, family members back away.  – Support group member. I belong to a number of on-line dementia support groups. Recently I posted a comment about research that shows that connection to community…
Bill and Mum Skyping John in London

connection – the silver lining

When our mum got dementia, my sister Kathy lived in the same town in South Africa, I lived about 50 km away, and our brothers Bill and John lived in Nepal and the UK respectively. In our globalised world, far-flung families are commonplace. In…
brain healthy foods 3

Food for thought … Making brain-healthy choices

If you want to get people disagreeing, start talking about diets! From vegan to paleo and beyond, we can justify a confusing diversity of eating plans. So, as I write this blog about brain-friendly nutrition, I know that it won’t please…
A daily dose of Nature does us good!

Healthy by nature

It is common knowledge that spending time outdoors is good for our physical and mental health, and yet many people with dementia live most of their lives indoors. Activities like walking, swimming and games develop physical fitness, stamina,…
Reading this book marked a turning point in my journey with Mum

Contented dementia – such a helpful book

During the early years of Mum’s dementia, I knew nothing about Alzheimer’s Disease. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to know. Denial is a common response to bad news. By the time I stumbled upon the book Contented Dementia in a local…
Mum recording1

Sharing our gifts

Music was Mum’s greatest gift. Author Malcolm Gladwell maintains that ten thousand hours of practice are necessary to achieve mastery in a field. As a student, concert pianist and music teacher Mum had rehearsed and performed for many more…
Erosion had revealed two heart-shaped quartz crystals that had been hidden in the rock

Dementia … a process of erosion

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it’s natural to focus on the many aspects of their life and yours that are being lost. Indeed, the dementia journey can feel like a long process of erosion. In Alzheimer’s Disease, the part…
Mum's dear friends, June and Ray, visited her every week for tea

Don't try to go it alone ...

I subscribe to a few dementia support groups on Facebook. These are safe, moderated, on-line spaces where people caring for their loved ones with dementia can share their stories, seek advice, and experience the solidarity of others who deeply…
Natural light, good contrast and spaciousness in a well-designed dementia care home

design for dementia – part 1

When people have dementia, they can experience changes in the way they perceive and make sense of the world: Many older people experience deteriorating eyesight, making it harder to see in dull light. Peripheral vision may deteriorate,…
I needed surgery to repair my wrist after falling off a chair!

Beyond brain fog, depression … and dementia?

Having experienced my mum’s dementia journey, I’m encouraged by new evidence that it may be possible to avoid some types of dementia. The Bredesen Protocol – ‘a comprehensive personalized programme designed to improve cognition and…
Spending time in the garden with a loved one brought mum joy

Nature as care partner

Just for a moment, can you put yourself into the shoes of a person living with dementia in a care home? Who are all these people in the sitting room? Why are you here anyway? Someone has left the TV on (loud) even though you can’t follow…
Our loved ones with dementia can teach us to slow down and be present

Slow down, be present

Trying to communicate with a loved one with dementia can be hugely frustrating … until we learn to slow down and be present with them. This didn’t come easily for me! I was in full-on ‘busy adult mode’ when Mum started slipping…
Mum's last Christmas

Dementia is a disease of the brain, not of the soul

Today’s Dementia Connections blog focuses on the topic: Soul, spirit and sense of self. This is one of the most poignant articles I have read about dementia. It encourages us, as family members and friends of someone living with dementia,…
There are many ways for a person with dementia to stay connected

Welcome to Dementia Connections

Dementia can be a lonely, confusing and emotional journey for all affected – both the person living with dementia and the loved one wondering how best to support them. Having walked this road with my mum for fifteen years, I am passionate…
Dancing with mum

Of loss & love - reflecting on dementia

Has your life been affected by dementia? Are you in the early stages of the condition, or are you the care-partner of a loved one with dementia? An attitude of acceptance and a practice of mindfulness helped me to transform the experience of…
Dementia allowed Mum to receive

a care-giving journey – part 3

This is the final of three extracts from an interview by Tom and Karen Brenner, which was published in two parts on Bob de Marco’s Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog:   What are some of the…
Mum was a powerful magnet who drew us together as a family

a care-giving journey - part 2

Here is the second of three extracts from an interview by Tom and Karen Brenner, which was published in two parts on Bob de Marco’s Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog:     How did your…

a care-giving journey - part 1

Tom and Karen Brenner, authors of You say goodbye and we say hello: the Montessori method for positive dementia care, interviewed me recently about the experience of my mother’s dementia journey. Their questions enabled me to reflect on our…

a daily blessing

The work of the late anthropologist Angeles Arrien helped me to see a deeper, more personal layer of significance in natural cycles. Most mornings, I love to greet the four directions - the rising sun in the east, the north where (in our hemisphere)…

the sweet spot

One of the great gifts of being alive is the experience of care. To care deeply about a person, a community, a creature, the Earth, or an issue in society is to glimpse the possibility of oneness. However, when care becomes attached to a particular…

come to your senses

This poem came to me during a solo hike this past weekend. A tiny orchid in the grass alongside the path attracted my attention, reminding me of the gifts that are waiting for us to open our senses to the world.   Come to your senses: Feel…
mum in shawl

Dementia blessings - My wise woman

Today is the first anniversary of Mum's birth since she passed away in January. Happy Birthday, Mum - this one's for you! Mum was always my 'wise woman' - the one who listened deeply and responded with compassion and non-judgment. So when…
mum at piano

Dementia blessings - Embodied Memory

Witnessing the progress of Mum's dementia made me reflect on how the notion of 'mind' has become reduced to 'brain' in our society. Even though she eventually lost the ability to remember our names and craft sentences, Mum continued to improvise…
Mum as a baby

Dementia blessings - Welcome the child

Spending time with my mother as she neared the end of her life, it felt like someone had set up a mirror at the point at which the spirit enters and leaves the physical realm. Her declining mental faculties and increasing dependence were a mirror-image…

Dementia blessings - Communion

One of the gifts of spending time with a parent with dementia is that eventually you give up trying to have a conversation about the mundane doings of everyday, and sink into a slower, quieter, more heart-centered engagement. When I started…
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a lesson in releasing

I love eucalyptus trees. Together they create a living cathedral, with marble-like bark, arching branches and the pervasive smell of incense, that leaves me feeling hushed and in awe. And they are such wise teachers. Whenever I spend time with…
sunshine conebushes

soul expression

This Saturday was another delicious day at Silvermine. The slopes shone with sunshine cone-bushes, but it was a tiny yellow bulbine that held my attention. Growing amongst sandstone shards on top of a rock, this fragile little plant was defying…
Angeles tree

For Angeles – honouring a fallen elder

On 24 April 2014, Dr Angeles Arrien passed away. Angeles was a cultural anthropologist, whose research into the symbols, myths and practices of indigenous people drew attention to the high degree of commonality between the values and beliefs…


Lemniscate was created from leaves on the forest floor during a land art hike on the Garden Route of the southern Cape, South Africa in August 2013. This is one of my favourite symbols of life's ongoing, regenerative cycles of change.
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