Anne Davis Basting’s Book – I started reading the book Forget Memory by Anne Davis Basting and was going to post a blog about it when I was finished, but because it is so good, I’ve decided to post a blog every few chapters so I don’t leave anything important out.
First off, this is an excellent book and the subtitle is “Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia.”
Anne Davis Basting’s Book and Alzheimer’s and dementia patients
Basting believes that while science tries to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, it’s equally as important to deal with the issue now. She discusses the importance of living in the moment, because our memories are essentially not accessible when we have dementia.
Part One of the book is called Understanding Our Fears of Dementia. Basting aims to explore our understanding and feelings toward the disease in order to help care for people with it and to help people live with it. Like the chapter titles, she tells stories about people having a fear of being a burden, fear of the unknown, fear of being out of control, a fear of being violated or robbed, and a fear of a meaningless existence.
On page nine, she gives a good example of how our negative feelings toward the disease make people try to separate themselves from it (which seems to come natural due to our fears of it). Here is the excerpt:
“‘That’s not him, it’s the disease,” we say, when a man with dementia shouts out in anger… Separating the person from the actions can help us cope with some significant personality changes in ourselves and those we love. But staff members of a nursing home might also say, ‘That’s not him, that’s the dementia” if a man cries out in pain and asks for help. Or insists on waffles instead of pancakes. Or asks to call his son. ‘It’s the disease’ severs intentionality from both unusual behavior and everyday actions alike.”
Because we want to separate ourselves from this “terrible” disease, it affects those with the disease more than we realize.
So she explores further into why we have these fears.
On page 14, she wrote, “The United States is obsessed with memory. Perhaps this is because, as a young country, we have so little of it. Or perhaps because as a country of immigrants that was built largely through the destruction of native cultures and on the backs of people stolen from their homes, we have a lot of memories to reassemble.” She goes on to list other possible reasons for our strong emphasis on memory.
She discusses how popular culture has turned us into “immortal” beings, where our lives are now documented, seemingly forever, in blogs, social networking sites, art, digital photographs, scrap booking, and other very easily documented personal information, where it can be stored forever. Calendars and events and computers help us organize all of this. These recorded memories help us learn lessons in life, shaping who we become. Education, based on other people’s experiences and things they’ve learned, is a very important part of what “success” is in the world today. More than ever, memory is valued extremely high.
She also discusses the way dementia and Alzheimer’s is portrayed in the media. It is generally very negative, and commentary surrounding it uses words like “robbed,” “fear,” “darkness,” and “suffering” which help us frame the disease in our minds. One of the reasons this is so (besides the obvious fear of losing our memories), is because some of the people involved in publishing these depictions of the disease (on television, online, or the newspaper) want funding for it, and the government tends to fund causes that the majority of people are very concerned about, so the “fear” of it in people actually may help funding.
Basting doesn’t go on to say that all of these things we do aren’t worth doing, or that people place too much value on memory.
I believe what she wants us to do is just take a look at it and try to understand why we do the things we do, because sometimes, against our will, these memories may not be accessible anymore due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. And getting sad or upset about it doesn’t solve anything at all. Therefore, it’s best to learn to adjust to this change and make the most of it. By allowing yourself to forget memory, we gain the power to continue to love and grow and cherish the people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and creating meaningful relationships for the patient and the caregiver.
I’m very much looking forward to reading more of the book.