As part of my Population Health Class in Medical School, Elders from the local Mi’Kmaq/Mi'gmaq First Nation were invited to speak to us about their cultural and traditional perspectives on Health.
One of the subjects they covered was their view of aging. I remember them saying that they viewed the end of life as “pay-back time.” After having raised their families and serving as Elders, people would “reverse” from age 7,6,5,4,3,2,1... This was the time when their families and communities would take care of them, paying them back for their service.
Listening to Dr. Brian Goldman's White Coat, Black Art this week, I was reminded of this “reversal of age” and of our need to care for our elders as we would our children.
This episode was entitled “How to reach the person inside the Dementia” using of Naomi Feil's Validation Therapy (see link below). Feil's method is to listen to the elderly suffering from dementia and instead of getting angry with them for their outbursts and trying to restrain them, to validate their emotions, recognizing that it is a re-enactment of unresolved memories, and soothe them with compassion.
From a Neurological perspective, understanding that the various forms of dementias effect out "thinking/rational" brain, it makes complete sense that speaking and soothing the Limbic "emotional" brain, is the way to go in terms of care of those with dementia. Validation Therapy fits in with current understanding and methods in psychotherapy, in which people are encouraged to complete their fight or flight response to resolve trauma.
Elder care is a complex issue for sure. Seeing dementia and aging through this lens, and treating Elders with dementia in this way makes a lot of sense. If you haven’t listened to the episode, please take the time to do so, or at least make the people who will care for you listen!
Here's the link: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/how-to-reach-the-person-inside-the-dementia-1.3786034/how-to-reach-the-person-inside-the-dementia-1.3786038
Naomi Feil uses the Validation Method to reach and communicate with people who have advanced-stage dementia.
Hopefully, it will bring light to a better way to care for those who raised us, and soothe the suffering of aging, as we soothe our children.
In writing this, I acknowledge the Elder Mi' K'maq Women and thank them for their time in coming to speak to my class. It certainly helped me understand their culture.
If I have incorrectly interpreted this Mi’Kmaq tradition or misrepresented it, I welcome clarification! In no way do I wish any harm or disrespect in sharing of this tradition. Meegwetch!