Dementia is a brain disease that causes a long-term and often gradual memory loss and decrease in the ability to think. It affects a person's daily functioning and family members have to learn to cope with something that they do not understand.
Marie EVB Gibbons is one of the online instructors at TeachinArt who teaches the online workshop, post-fired finishes. She shows in her online class how to paint with acrylics on clay. She makes her own clay sculptures and each of these is used to tell a life story.
Her dad went through the struggles of dementia, and as an artist, she tried to understand what it means to loose your memory and mind. Here is Marie in her own words. She uses her clay sculptures and acrylic paints to express the emotions and sadness of dealing with dementia (loss of memory).
I watched this video again - of me speaking about what I was trying to figure out about dementia, and I look at that now and think, wow, those were the good old days.
That is when my Dad could acknowledge his malfunctioning memory, but still manage to move forward, and live his life.
Now, my Dad is living in a memory care facility. He is in a constant state of not knowing, not understanding, not remembering.
Now, he tries so hard to gain an understanding of why. Why is he there. What has happened to him. What is being done to help him.
The saddest part - in my opinion, is that you can't explain to a person with dementia that they have dementia.
I think even cancer is a kinder evil. At least someone with cancer can understand there is an evil in their body, an illness.
A person with dementia cannot understand that their brain is dying, it is not working with them anymore, in fact it is working against them. The very thing (the brain) that helps one comprehend, is not an aid in problem solving and analysis, but a tool of distraction. It's like accidentally leaning on the delete button of your keyboard, and all of a sudden being witness to things just erasing, to become unaccessible.
When he doesn't know who I am, he questions if I am someone important to him. I choose to believe that this is proof of the heart's memory. That somehow, in his being, he knows me, but it is not in the traditional way of knowing. When I confirm that I am someone important, that I am his daughter, it brings him to tears, and to feelings of stupidity, and sadness. How can a father forget his child, his wife, his life. I try to comfort him with explanations that might make sense, to both he and I. I like the analogy of an air bubble. I tell him, "I am in an air bubble right now. You can't see the information that goes with me, but the bubble will pop eventually (and hopefully, for a little longer) and then you'll put it all together again, as it is visible, even if just for a moment.
That is dementia to me at this moment.
Something that has stolen my father's mind, life, memories, being. We have this physical body in front of us that tempts us into a belief that maybe, just maybe things could be OK again.
But, that is far from the truth. I find myself mourning a soul, being stuck with a body. It's such a conflict.
Post-fired finishes e-course with Marie Gibbons
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TeachinArt is an online art school with professional artists as instructors who educate, enridge and promote art.