Being with Dementia: A Soulful Approach is a collection of stories that illustrate the power of connection and provide a sense of hope to those caring for individuals with dementia.
As a social worker and nursing home administrator, I have had the opportunity to assist many residents and team members to have a better understanding of dementia communication. The greatest “a-ha” moment for me, however, arose as I was doing my own personal work. I was trying to understand the power of presence and to focus more on “being” than “doing.” I began to notice when I was truly present with others, as well as those moments when my mind was elsewhere, thinking about my to-do list and solving the world’s problems.
One day, I was listening to a spiritual thinker talk about how our pets are a terrific example of how to be completely present. That was intriguing to me, as animals have always provided a sense of joy and peace in my life. In fact, my chocolate lab, Allie, was often by my side at work.
I watched Allie more closely. She seemed to embrace every moment. On our walks, she would smell everything with interest, taking it all in. She would greet other dogs and people with presence. She was there—right there—and nowhere else. This both fascinated and frustrated me. Why couldn’t I have the same sense of presence? What is wrong with humans?
And then it came to me… There are humans who can be completely present. I have had the opportunity to work with many of them, and they have dementia.
The moment I came to this realization was the moment I knew that the difficult work we do requires intentional personal growth and, too often, we put the burden on the individual with dementia. We ask them to do the impossible because we are unwilling to enter their world—to be completely present with them.
I wrote this book to provide an unintimidating tool to those on the front lines—caregivers, loved ones, CNAs, nurses, social workers, and anyone else who cares for and loves someone with dementia. Being with Dementia is a quick and easy read, packed full of tools that can immediately be applied to the work. It provides an opportunity to see the beauty, joy and peace that can come from being fully present in a variety of challenging situations.
~Miekka Zanders, CSW, NHA
Miekka Zanders is a social worker and nursing home administrator, with a special interest in dementia care and quality of life. Over the past 10 years, Miekka has worked with residents, team members and families in multiple long-term care communities to improve understanding and communication for those with dementia. She has presented at the Nebraska Health Care Association conference and American Health Care Association national conference, as well as the Wyoming State Games. This is Miekka’s first book.