Me, Mum, Dementia & Re-Connecting through Touch

by Yasmin Lang, Aged Care Nurse / Massage Therapist, Byron Bay

I was invited to give a presentation at an Aged Care Centre, to bring awareness of the benefits and support massage can provide. I did not know what I was going to talk about until I stood before fifty or so residents and staff and began sharing what felt right from my own experience.

My mother suffered from dementia, and she came to a point when she no longer recognised me or knew my name. Having a conversation only created confusion for her, so I used to hold her hands and then gently massage them, and the feeling between us re-awakened and she called me daughter!Could it be that we have become so very far removed from safe and nurturing touch, and especially so, as we grow older?

It all began when I visited her with a gift of hand lotion. At first it was awkward and she did not like being touched – perhaps the closeness was too much for her, perhaps she had become very removed and isolated from touch and any true loving connection, especially in a nursing home where the only physical contact was to assist her in everyday personal care needs, which was not always pleasant. In the beginning she struggled and her resistance came up, then she began to relax, melt and fall into a light sleep… and within 15 minutes she became peaceful and her restless nervous hands were still, just being.

On another visit when again she did not recognise me, her eyes lit up when I held the bottle of hand lotion in my hands and she said, “yes, please!” We were communicating!

A few weeks later I observed her in a repetitive anxious state along with restless legs and lack of sleep. I wrapped her feet in steaming warm towels and then gently massaged the hardness from her legs and feet. She relaxed and calmed down and slept like a baby afterwards.

My mother had spent her formative years in Wales during the Great Depression and then the Second World War, and these experiences had shaped her. It was obvious how stifled her life had become. She had learned how to survive but found herself unable to see outside this wall she had erected around herself, always worried about money and stockpiling food: she lived in a climate of fear and poverty consciousness. Eventually, dementia had taken away her memories, worries and her life-long struggle with asthma. Yes, even the asthma was cured, leaving her with a wide-eyed childlike innocence, and we became playful and funny in each other’s company. Not many words were needed to communicate and yet, we were communicating heart to heart in a true way, and our new relationship had begun through a gentle loving touch that would re-connect us to ourselves, each other and the harmony within.

These days a new relationship has developed through this experience, for me to be working with and around people with dementia and their families. I might add that it wasn’t always an easy road, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, where I would almost lose my way. Usually, when I used to feel sorry or sympathetic towards another who I perceived to be suffering, I would get drained and exhausted. But to shut myself down, cold, hard and detached and to not feel, did not work for me either.

During this time I had much healing and support in the way of healing sessions with Serge Benhayon and other Universal Medicine practitioners, and I attended Universal Medicine workshops where I began to feel more of myself and understand the need for more loving care, nurturing and healing within myself. It was only then that I was truly able to develop an understanding toward others. I began to feel a warm detachment – compassion for a person. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s quite the opposite: I can accept that the person is exactly where they are on their own journey, just as I am, and there is no way I would want to interfere with their process, change them or provide a safety mattress to prevent them from feeling where they are at; nothing to fix, simply, I love them just the way they are and they can feel that, too.

It is now possible for me to offer my assistance and true care without the entanglement and emotional attachment. I am more loving with myself, playful, and able to get out of my own way and offer a true service.

278 thoughts on “Me, Mum, Dementia & Re-Connecting through Touch

  1. Reading this makes me wonder if I should offer a close one this treatment as well. I imagine it would feel lovely especially when the ability to clearly communicate is not there anymore.

  2. What occurred to me while reading this touching account of Yasmin’s care for her mother is just how much we all really yearn for tender physical contact but seem to avoid it like the plague sometimes based on some previous hurt or fear of opening up fully to others and showing our fragility, which is actually a strength, not a weakness.

  3. It is amazing how you did not know what you were going to present about yet when you were there presenting in the moment you knew exactly what to say. This really shows a deep level of connection and trust within yourself that naturally offers you the ability to be confident and open to what your body is telling you in such circumstances.

  4. True love and true care can look quite different from what we have been sold to. Accepting others for their choices, knowing that they are love, is very much a work in progress for me, as much as building that foundation for the relationship with myself.

  5. First I love that you did not prepare for the presentation but instead felt what was needed when you got there and was actually with the people and that what you presented came from your lived experience and something that could really support staff and residents alike … truly inspiring ✨ Secondly Yasmin this is so beautiful what you are sharing with regards to your mum and the relationship between you. Often when our parents age, as adults we get engulfed in our ‘busy’ lives and do what we can to support them, but here you really connected with your mum and gave her time and care. When you mentioned how you cared for her feet with the towels it was really touching and the love and care could be felt. It just goes to show what a simple thing like a hand massage with some hand lotion when being really present with the person and doing it from a place of true care can offer the other.

  6. A beautiful blog to read Yasmin, showing the power of your loving tender touch bringing a loving connection with your Mother. So many of the elderly miss the loving touch which can be so healing, and massage with true care is a beautiful way of providing this.

  7. Love your mention of true care coming from detachment. After all how can we ever offer true care and understanding to another if we are absorbed and entangled in their emotional dilemmas and issues?

  8. “My mother had spent her formative years in Wales during the Great Depression and then the Second World War, and these experiences had shaped her.” I have met many older people from this era and there is a fear around so many things that we take for granted. Throwing things away is almost a crime, making do with what they have, hoarding especially in their later years is quite common and there are many that say when they are ill or something is troubling “we just have to get on with it” and I feel this is from the war years where they felt they had no choice but ‘to grin and bare it’. There was an acceptance that that is the way life is and it is not in their hands to change it, and this then plays out in their lives.

    1. Alison how you described how some people from that era was spot on, as with my mother she felt she had no choice in life, as you say it was not in their hands to change it. However, massaging her hands did allow her to feel tenderness and the protection were no longer there, as she was safe and she felt loved.

  9. Understanding someone’s experiences through life and the effect that these experiences have had, without being sympathetic is very important. Our history explains much, even though we choose our reactions/responses.

  10. What a powerful message you share here Yasmin of how or bodies will always respond to love, as It knows that love is what animates and brings harmony to the body, regardless of whether our minds are aligned of not. And so, where we walk with love, we communicate love in every way through our movements, and as you share this is how to offer true service to humanity.

  11. We are touched and taught in a way beyond words, by physical connection. What a travesty it is that this warm and natural caring expression has been put aside to be ‘polite’ or proper. A simple caring gesture can remind us instantly, we are Love. Thank you Yasmin.

  12. Truly beautiful Yasmin. Your blog has me pondering the power of touch in all my relationships. So often we think we need to say the right thing but our bodies communicate far more than words can.

  13. A beautiful sharing Yasmin. We like to communicate with words but I love how you restored connecting with your mum through touch and deep love and care. Feeling a connection from the heart is worth more than any words exchanged.

  14. Thank you Yasmin, loving touch is a beautiful way to communicate love and warmth very clearly. Love is more than just words, love is felt in the way a meal is cooked, in a hug, in the way we work, and the way we touch others. All you have shared is really beautiful Yasmin and very inspiring. We can never discount our ability to share our love with others in very simple ways in our day to day life

  15. Dementia is basically someone who has given up on being present in their own body. Therefore massage feels a great modality to bring them to their body, even if it will only be briefly. It’s a loving thing to do.

  16. When we sympathise with another they feel that in their bodies too and it is a drain on them. I am just remembering a time when I was in a wheel chair, brief though it was, it gave me time to observe other peoples reactions to me and the sympathy, pity and patronising energy coming my way felt ugly and very uncomfortable.

    1. Thank you Elaine, it’s great what you have shared here. We judge and diminish people based on outer circumstances instead of meeting each other in our essence or being and the equality that we truly have. It is true what you’re sharing here that sympathy can stem from viewing someone as less because of circumstance.

  17. A very touching sharing, Yasmin, thank you. The effect of sympathy and the difference when you give loving support that you highlight is truly important and significant in being able to give true loving care and to not become drained in the process.

  18. Recently I have started to work in aged care, reading this feels very inspiring. The conditions that people can get into can be very upsetting but going into reaction and emotions lessened our ability to bring true care. Thank you Yasmin.

  19. Such a good idea to connect to dementia patients through touch. I would agree that words tend to only confuse them and touch will perhaps enable them some respite from the relentless confusion in their heads.

  20. This simple, yet profound story is stunning, That quality, gentle touch and movement is paramount for mental health condtions. I hope this will be recognised as a scientific path of connection.

  21. You inspire me Yasmin by how you have shown that love is so real, practical and applicable in any moment depending on what is needed from a simple conversation to a delicate touch.

  22. This is a deeply inspiring blog Yasmin. The quality of love through presence and touch that is possible to have with another is a beautiful way of communication and connection when it is no longer possible to do so verbally. A very great gift shared with your mother at this time.

  23. Thank you for sharing your experiences with your mother Yasmin. I found the story of how your mother changed completely after literally minutes of a hand massage fascinating and inspiring. So many of us live so separated and detached from love and it is extraordinary how a tiny dose can transform us. What if we lived that love 24/7? The world would be completely different.

  24. “nothing to fix, simply, I love them just the way they are” and tender touch with a gentle massage offers a profound connection.

  25. A very touching blog which beautifully and clearly reveal how when we allow ourselves to be inspired by the wisdom of our body, we will know exactly what is supportive and loving in all situations.

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