Dealing as a Spiritual, Magickal Caregiver of Alzheimer or Dementia Patients
Article One — In the Beginning
by Silver RavenWolf
Otherwise Titled: Welcome to the Nightmare on Dementia Street
For the past several months I’ve been gathering information and developing a variety of techniques for the spiritually magickal person who has found themselves (by choice or circumstance) faced with the mentally and physically debilitating task of caring for an individual who has Alzheimer’s or has been diagnosed with some form of Dementia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “dementia symptoms vary depending on the case, but common signs and symptoms include:
*Inability to learn or remember new information
*Difficulty with planning and organizing
*Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
*Inability to reason
The article goes on to say that “providing care for a person with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding.” “Often,” states the article, “the primary caregiver is a spouse or other family member. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry and grief, and social isolation are common.”
You know, reading those words make you think, “Wow, what a bummer.” Living them? Well, like I said…
Welcome to the Nightmare.
If we were talking about a few months, or even a year (which is long enough) of this plethora of emotions and experiences, you might tend to just get on with life and put the bad behind you. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s and Dementia are greedy monsters that don’t play with you for a short period of time. For years, they suck the life out of you like an alien on intergalactic steroids, especially if you have been along for the ride since the beginning.
And, although I could turn this article into an extraordinary, gritty account of just what the heck it is really like (the truth of which everyone tries to avoid with sugary words like “dignity” and “compassion”) when you dance with the Demon Dementia up close and personal as a caregiver…
that’s not what this blog entry is all about.
Actually…its about you.
The above aforementioned paragraphs are included in this article for one purpose only…
to let you know I speak from battleground of one of the worst long-term experiences of your life, and that I have found ways (although small) for you to cope and overcome those feelings of guilt, frustration, discouragement, worry, grief, and social isolation without medicating yourself until you are brain dead.
It can be done.
There are (give or take) seven stages of Alzheimer’s/Dementia as the medical community is now quantifying select symptoms. Of course, this will change as studies continue and information unfolds. Right now, though, we have this very basic guideline of the behavioral timeline degeneration of the patient — meaning what symptoms normally come first, followed by the next, and so on. The problem for you, as the caregiver, is that nothing is set in stone and everything fluctuates — it is a guideline, after all. You feel as if you are standing in the middle of earthquake territory with never ending aftershocks as you try not only to handle an incredible variety of circumstances with the patient, let alone the events of your own life and the members of your immediate family.
Whether you are dealing with someone in Stages One through Three — mild cognative decline– or in Stages Six and Seven — severe Dementia; there are quite a few magickal and mentally healthful things you can do to save your sanity as well as work for the patient and your family as needs arise. Before I continue, however, I need to publicly say that this, or any future articles on the subject are not intended as medical or legal advice, and that such information should be researched and garnered from the appropriate provider — which would not be me. The collection of information and material I am writing for you here comes from my own experience as a magickal person, and I am not responsible for your choices or decisions on this or any other subject. With that plainly said…
let’s move on.
Altar/Sacred Space/The Spirit Place — Your First Step to Sanity
Every family situation is different. Sitting at Stage Seven as a caregiver and evaluating what has happened over the years here, I can tell you that your own experience will unfold with three primary influences: The Base Personality of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Patient; Your Personality and your reactions to the Base Personality; and the Support System (family members and friends) that you do or don’t have and how healthy (or not) those relationships are. Those three factors will determine the highs and lows of your ultimate experience.
Within this tangle of people and emotions you need a sacred place — some small area, tabletop, nightstand…whatever…that carries the light of Spirit — a place, regardless of your religion, that can be used by you to focus on the ultimate light of the universe — the place of peace — something that you can look at when you need strength, when you feel you can’t change another diaper, or face another vicious tongue lashing, hallucination, or temper tantrum from the Base Personality, or “I-told-you-so” quip from the family member who likes to tell you what to do while neatly avoiding the slime of the trenches.
Take your time and carefully choose what items, statues, and colors you need to to enhance this Spirit Place. There are no right or wrong choices. Move with what feels most pleasant to you. What, when you walk by it, will speak to you of love, assistance, and hope? A picture? A figurine? Perhaps a geometric design? You don’t need to rush and set up something elaborate. One thing at a time is fine. If at all possible, make sure there is some sort of light at the center of this Spirit Place. I have a Spirit Candle Holder in the center of my chosen space. These days I work with an Egyptian motif — double snakes — symbolic to me of healing, DNA, and the power of thought and belief. On top of this candle holder I placed a small glass tea candle cup out necessity of short burn time. Every day I burn at least one tea candle in the name of Peace and Healing. If you can’t have open flame, use your imagination of what you can have. It is your Spirit Place.
Your Spirit Place will change over time. Let it. Take items off that no longer serve you well emotionally and replace with something that does. In the beginning my Spirit Place held a more Celtic variety of objects. As things got worse and the burdens increased (in the end it is like you are living that person’s life for them as they no longer participate in any function from clothing choices, food choices… and hygiene goes totally out the window) my need for a change led me to something that spoke of solid, stronger support for the end-days that I know are coming.
In the world of Paganism, deity energies and archetypes are exceptionally important. You may be right in the thick of things like I am, or you could be a caring friend, health care professional, or magickal healer that has interest in this topic or a particular person or client who is Wiccan, Pagan, or Druid. Finding a deity energy that resonates well with your beliefs and your personality is vitally important. Such a choice should not carry recriminations, judgments, or threats of suffering (aren’t you already suffering enough?). Instead, I found it best to emotionally feel my way towards what resonated with me and my current circumstances as my family traveled through the stages of dementia with the Base Personality. As I acknowledged my feelings, I did more in-depth research on the deities and their correspondences in accordance with what I needed mentally and emotionally at each stage. I think that it is vitally important for you to understand that Alzheimer’s/Dementia is not a once-and-done experience with a short time package — it is a long haul journey, and your deity energy choices can and most likely will change as you overcome and grow in your own right. Some people completely change religions, searching for what they feel will fulfill them the most in their time of need. Others stick with the same religion; but, research a variety of energy options within that framework, using different archetypes or energies for different circumstances.
Here is a short list I constructed of various deity energies you may wish to research for your own needs.
Aceso — Greek — Female — Healing
Achelois — Greek — Female — She Who Drives Away Pain
Epione — Greek — Female — Soothing the Sick and Grief Stricken
Hermes — Greek — Male — Messenger, Knowledge, Medicine
Eir (Air) — Norse — Female — Valkerie — Mercy
Hiln — Norse — Female — Comfort and Consolation
Odin — Norse — Male — Wisdom, Thought, Memory, Knowledge
Brigid — Celtic — Female — Healing
Airmid — Celtic — Female — Regeneration — Goddess of Medicinal Plants
Dianchecht — Celtic — Male — Airmid’s Brother — Healing References
Epona — Celtic — Female — Healing Springs and Waters
Sequana — Celtic — Female — River Goddess of Health
Sophia — General — Female — Mother Goddess Healing
Archangels — General — Healing
Thoth — Egyptian — Male — Memory, Knowledge, Medicinal Assistance
Sekhmet — Egyptian — Female — Invoked to stop plagues — Dementia is a plague of our times. Also Protection.
Isis — Egyptian — Female — Mother Goddess, Regeneration
This aforementioned list is small; but, it is enough to get you started if you are unsure of what type of deity energy you require. Once you’ve chosen a particular energy to work with, you may wish to place a small representation on or near your Spirit Place.
Candle Colors For Workings Involving Dementia Patients and Caregivers
As a caregiver your peace of mind is extremely important. Try to take a few moments of every day for some type of devotional work, whether this be meditation, chanting, drumming, singing, or even a DVD ten minute work out! Why not try Tai Chi? Self-help tapes are great, too! Walking outside in the sunlight and working with the earth are extremely advantageous to both your mental and physical health. My peace of mind routine has included lighting candles and connecting with Spirit through deep breathing exercises, Tai Chi, art work, and working in the garden. Here are my top candle choices and why:
Aqua — my number one choice as Dementia is the destruction of the mind and the emotions — elements of Air and Water.
Silver — representing the Goddess, the Moon, the emotions, Mercury, and the mind.
White — my third choice; but, often the first I use as white emergency candles are economical and handy.
Blue — for protection of the mind and the family, as well as stress relief.
Lavender — particularly lavender scented candles for aromatherapy in dealing with stress and anger.
Green or yellow — common candle colors for healing and success.
When To Burn Your Spirit/Magickal Candles & Planetary Info
When you feel like it. When you need to reach out to deity. For a particular working or ritual. If you are looking for a daily guide, you might try the following:
Monday — Ruled by the Moon — Emotional and Family Healing
Wednesday — Ruled by Mercury — Mental Clarity, Communication & Memory
Saturday — Ruled by Saturn — Banish Negativity and work for the Elderly
Sunday — Ruled by the Sun — General Success
If you are into astrological timing and planetary hours, check these same planets listed for when they are deemed most powerful during a particular day or night. You will find how to calculate these hours in the appendices of many of my books, and of course, these days — there’s an ap for that! No kidding.
To me, the primary elements associated with Alzheimer’s/Dementia are Water (emotions) and Air (thought) making the planetary correspondences associated with these symptoms to be the Moon and Mercury, respectively. Use earth to ground yourself and heal.
Symbols can be drawn on the candles you burn. Those I found most useful were the Egyptian Ankh and the Wedjat.
The primary focus of this article is to let you know that you are not alone and that there are magickal activities to add to your caregiver tool-kit. In this blog entry we discussed your Spirit Place, Deity options, Candle Colors and Planetary Correspondences. My next article will cover Spiritual Cleansing, your environment, and Herbal Healing Correspondences.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have any suggestions that may be helpful to someone in the caregiver situation, please let us know. I would be delighted for your comments.
Research for this Blog Entry:
The 7 Stages of Dementia — Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia — article