What would happen if you sat alone in a room with a dementia sufferer, sometimes for hours? What would you hear? Garbled, nonsensical words – or could you find hidden wisdom? Author Susanna Howard of London, UK has found just that and more. Wisdom indeed is found, but also pain and longing in these minds that are often overlooked because they have been diagnosed with dementia.
Ms. Howard’s work is part of a greater project called Living Words. According to the Living Words website, the purpose of the program is threefold: to
- Work with individuals who have dementia – creating poetry, books and laminates
- Work with staff in care homes and hospitals – enabling creativity through improved self-esteem and individually tailored approaches
- Work in the media to creatively increase awareness and integration of people who have dementia with those who do not.
Howard works with both the elderly and the terminally ill, and says that healing by words cannot be overestimated. What has she learned throughout the process? “I think we have a wealth of words inside us throughout our lives and when you have dementia, they are still inside you… So many people are saying they want to be cared for and how to be cared for, that they are not listened to, that they are not heard. They are saying ‘this is what I want. This is what I need.’”
The question is… Are we listening?
Below is an example of Susanna Howard’s work, found online at www.livingwords.org.uk. Read more and be inspired.
The Back Doorstep
Two or three clever things
In the back of my mind
They seem to stick
To the back of my mind -
You don’t do them.
That expression ‘back of my mind’
Really rather significant:
You forget it’s a phrase
And doesn’t state that you
Are scrubbing the back doorstep