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Dementia, Native American Approach Discussion
By Marila


Health and Health Care of



Levanne R. Hendrix, MSN, GNP, PhD

Although dementia is relatively rare in American Indian elderly, it is anticipated that as Indians’
life expectancy increases, so will the incidence of dementia. Explanatory models vary from tribe
to tribe, and individual to individual. These are only several reported examples:

1. Each person is put on the earth for a short time for a purpose. When that purpose is
accomplished the person is ready to leave this world. Death and illness are not caused by others,
and prolonged grieving prevents the spirit from crossing over to the next world where there is no
pain, but peacefulness . Appropriate medical treatment and death are discussed openly (Isleta
Pueblo, New Mexico). Dementia is a part of the Creator’s plan for that person’s ultimate learning
and may not require intervention or help-seeking (“naturalization” of cognitive impairment and
dementing behavior, with greater “tolerance” for a wide range of behavior than white
communities) (Cherokee).

2. Dementia and illness are caused by an imbalance in the patient’s spiritual, emotional, and
social environment. Speaking of negative consequences (prognosis) to an illness can bring those
events to pass as thought and language have power to shape reality (Bennahum, 1998). Dementia
may be caused by breaking a cultural taboo (e.g., a male speaking directly to his mother-in-law,
touching a dead person) by the person with dementia or a family member. Treatment may require
the services of traditional Indian medicine and not necessarily Western medicine (Navajo).

3. Dementia is a condition in which the person’s spirit has already crossed over into the next
world, but the body remains behind as it prepares to leave. The caregiver’s job is to take care of
the body until it is ready to leave, and this is sacred work. The person is communicating in the
spirit world, which is why language and behavior appear to us as if overhearing one side of a
telephone conversation. In some Indian communities this is a mark of elevated spiritual status for
the family (Oklahoma Choctaw).

4. Dementia is caused by the stress on Indians of trying to live in two worlds at one time.
Especially, the stress of a rigid Christian belief system of traditionally reservation-raised elderly,
and the stress, over time, of urban Indian living and family life. The lack of a collective
consciousness in Indian spiritual belief dilutes the power of the Indian spiritual community and
allows stress to develop illness, of which dementia is one form. Evidence is cited that dementia
has been very rare in elderly Indians in the past (Urban Lakota Sioux).

Silver Eagle Dream Dancer:
I really appreciated reading this. It's something I've always felt, that they were in-between worlds
- but have never had verified.

My training with dementia is along these lines, that the spirit of the individual is focused in the
spirit realm and gradually spends more time there than here in the mundane. It is honored as
such and at times they come back to the physical reality with their stories to share. I've just
always accepted it as such and honored their *trance state* without disruption to it....or as little
as possible in caring for their physical needs. I keep that part very simple, Marila. If they
become rational (if that's the proper way to put it) I'll talk with them about their spiritual
experiences, they seem (in most cases) eager to share them, talking about friends and relatives
that they were with who had crossed-over long before them. It's lovely really. I know it upsets the
family but it's nothing to fear.

In many cases this type of thing shows up with anyone who is about to Drop their Robe as well.
Usually in those cases it's about 3-7 days prior to that. You can see the person is focused in
another dimension, it's as if they are looking through the walls. Sometimes they will speak and at
other times I see them nodding their heads in response to conversations I can't hear. I can at
times feel the presence of others in the room but they tend to reveal themselves to the individual
more than to me. Fragrances and energy signatures are very clear though.

I hope this helps because it's not always limited to the dementia patients, this can happen to
anyone. In the case of dementia specifically I'd have to say I agree with what you've posted

“It is honored as such and at times they come back to the physical reality with their stories to
share.” Cinn, this is an important information for me. Yes, I have experienced this, too - but
things becomes more clear now and it is really helpful.

“I've just always accepted it as such and honored their *trance state* without disruption to it....or
as little as possible in caring for their physical needs.” A trance state - oh, yes, this explains a lot,
this it is.

“If they become rational (if that's the proper way to put it) I'll talk with them about their spiritual
experiences, they seem (in most cases) eager to share them, talking about friends and relatives
that they were with who had crossed over long before them. It's lovely really. I know it upsets
the family but it's nothing to fear.” Cinn, what you write here - it is what I have experienced,
too... I experienced them seeing people who are dead (or not there) - and the family could not
understand. When they shared what they saw I felt as if a door to another world was open - I felt
blessed and touched so much. I also felt the presence of the others, and I felt to take care to say
"good bye" to them before we left the room - and also not to run over them... *soft smile* It is
helpful that you share, Cinn. Thank you.

What you shared about the dying: “In many cases this type of thing shows up with anyone who is
about to Drop their Robe as well. Usually in those cases it's about 3-7 days prior to that.” This
opens up new views for me at the things - and I will work with the aspects of dementia and the
dying process - to "see" and experience in working with it how and where the signs are
similar/equal. I will be with it and sit with it and work with it - and I will be glad to come back if
new questions arise... Often I need a "link" between aspects/things - and then things will unfold
as far as I can hold it. I feel that an important link came with your post.

I work with people on this level in my own ways, Marila, according to the teachings I've
received, and they are collaborated in books or the Old Ways of the NA people, but come to me
from the Elders who teach me to walk my path first before I find the physical validations
elsewhere. What I've been taught and have found to be the case is that whenever someone is
about to cross they are met by those whom they know. Sometimes they fear that, knowing these
are departed spirits and my job is to bridge the way to understanding it, helping them make
peace with their process. For others they embrace it and understand and are almost eager to
move on. It ranges widely. But the fact remains that as they are tended on this side they are
simultaneously greeted and made welcome on the Otherside too.

Their sight and vision go beyond the veil that marks the dimensional realms and they walk
between the worlds as we do, but for them it is strange and an unknown place. Because we are
comfortable with that state of being we can explain it to them. One of my favorite quotes is:
"There is no death, only a change of worlds" by Chief Seattle. It opens their eyes to the fact that
there is more ahead of them, at least the possibility of the life after death concept and as these
spirits come to greet them they begin to see it for themselves. It's not at all complicated and the
simpler you keep it for them the better, even when your understanding exceeds theirs. Sometimes
simply telling them you do understand is enough and they give themselves permission to accept
it. Peace of mind, heart, and spirit come swiftly to them then.

For those who have not had such experiences but are terminally ill and need to prepare for
them...those individuals I take into guided visualization to meet their Guides. I bridge the way for
people one way or another like this and when they enter into even the slightest spiritual
understanding they begin to see it as good, some even as an exciting adventure and they embrace
very quickly. It takes patience to get them there sometimes but once you do it's all good. They
look forward to our conversations then as there is someone who really understands to share with
and that helps them assimilate...it opens the way for more to be shared so they understand better

If someone is from a traditional religious background I present these matters as my own and
offer to allow them to share in an exercise. Once they accept I take them into it fully. I don't force
the issue. If they feel it's sinful or shameful then I'll talk to them in terms they can understand.
Deceased relatives and friends are then expressed as part of the angelic realm and that they can
embrace. It has to fit their needs, it's all One anyway, but bridging the way is what's important
and we just need to do it in ways that make them comfortable. I hope this helps you some. It's
how I work with people and what I've been guided to do.

Cinn, thank you so much for your post. As I am on the way to Bremen right now I will not be
here today - but I will sit with quiet time to be with your post, then. This night I was assimilating
in first steps all the aspects that came the last days/weeks (also in daily life here and from "Our
Life" and dear Owl) - also so much from Crow´s sharing, the article I found about dementia and
taking care of the Elders (and of young people), BIM´s sharing about Ground Zero, my work
with the people and…and…and - all for me walks hand in hand, and I am sitting and bringing
things together now... I am looking forward to work with your post with much more quiet time.

Cinnamon, since you have worked with this I wanted to ask you. When you have worked with a
person who for a long time has seemed to be 'not here', when you speak with your ordinary
outside voice, do you think the person's spirit can hear you? I talk to my Father and tell him
things about Home. When his brilliant brain was working better he was an agnostic. But maybe
he's forgotten that. I know ~ I don't feel like I have to 'save him' any more. But I wish that I could
help ease him if there is remaining fear. I give him Reiki when I visit him. One time during a
Reiki session, in my mind I saw the two of us dancing to an old standard tune. In real life this
would have been impossible. He never danced. Then, in my mind, the scene changed, and he and
my mother were dancing. They were both about 35, and young and happy. It was a good vision. I
think I've told you this last part before, but it seemed to fit in with my post now. Anyway, do you
think that a demented person's spirit can hear us when we talk to them, maybe even when their
ears or mind can't?

Yes, Minna, I do believe their spirit hears us and understands. The awareness is linking to the
collective at that time and we're a part of that too. Whether it's dementia, Alzheimer’s, or coma,
speaking with their Higher Self is always possible IMHO. Even modern medicine encourages
visitors to speak with these patients. Think about the accounts of near-death-experiences people
have while out under anesthesia in surgery or from accidents where they recount the details of
events and who was present, who said what. Those examples are quite profuse in recorded case
files too. So yes, by all means, I believe the spirit hears and responds as it needs to.
When someone crosses the rites of funeral release the spirit of the individual. But we call them
back just thinking about them and can hold them with our grief, with our longing, with our
resentment if there is an issue of forgiveness unresolved. I've had personal experience with being
reminded of the need to release. It really is all connected through the Oneness, and in that light
there is higher awareness that we as physical beings may not always be able to witness, yet we
can still be a party to it. So keep talking to your father, and give thanks for the blessings of the
visions you are given. Perhaps he is sending you his thoughts so you know that he wants you to
have that image to hold onto now? It wouldn't surprise me at all.

Minna, I believe so, too. I knew my mother was someplace else when her Alzheimer's progressed
to mostly non-communication. I wouldn't have said her spirit was in some other dimension at the
time. But I knew that what was really my mother wasn't there in the body I saw deteriorating in
front of me. I couldn't have iterated where I thought she might be, but it also didn't frighten me.
I've wondered about that...why it didn't frighten me. My poor father was in such agony about it,
and I didn't have words to express to him what I felt. I wish I'd known then what I know now, but
I didn't and that was as it was to be.

When I saw Addie yesterday and saw her flitter...that's how I can describe it...between being
there with us chatting away about the meals that folks had been bringing to the house just to be
filling the air with something while I felt the others' pain and anguish at the thought of losing
her, and her being someplace else....I had that same sense of assurance that the someplace else
was assuring and not frightening. I wanted to reach out for Addie and tell her it was okay....go
there...we'll be just fine. If I'd done so Addie's daughter would have been horrified. She's still
playing the "you're going to get better" game with her.

But as I left I took Addie's hand and told her to take care of herself. She reached to grab my hand
with a stronger grasp and looked at me with a questioning look in her eyes, and said, "Okay." I
smiled. I saw a recognition of something in her eyes then, and I felt a longing in her to say
something else, but she didn't know what it was she wanted to say. I had to leave then. I don't
think I'll get to see her again. But I know she'll be just fine...finer than frog hair, she would say.
It's those left behind who will need much more assurance.

...many things came with the visit at Bremen yesterday, with the work in the night and with more
information from a book (I hope to share, soon, as I will have to type it...).

Dear (((Minna))), when I was allowed to work with a wonderful old man who has Alzheimer
over several years (he dropped his robe last year), I was allowed to journey to where he was
"when he was not there". This is what I got: The room/time continuum melts away for them
(often). If life and the learning areas are like football fields, then they are sometimes also drawn
back to "that" football field where they still have things to do, where things are to be with. (May
be the youth, war times, work...)

They may switch between football fields very fast - and this confuses the others around, as they
think the person now is totally going "crazy". No, as room/time continuum melts away for them
(they walk in other dimensions), they can walk between the football fields - but not often
voluntarily, but where they are called to. This way some people with Alzheimer may look again
and again for their money, some ask again and again for their passport, some cry for their shoes,
some are in their work and each thing around is "connected" for them with their work...

Then there are times where stereotype movements may occur - this was shown as not being on
the playground of a football field, but that the body comforts itself (like with autistic people) to
calm down, to release physical stress that touches the body, to give itself a rhythm in a world
where the person has lost the daily rhythm... These stereotype movements (like putting together
the same cloth over hours - folding it, unfolding it, folding it, unfolding it...) gives a calm and
smoothing sensation to the body where the spirit has lost much connection to... Like with autistic
people I do not feel to "interrupt" their movement, but to see which kind of comfort is needed -
and to offer it, may be (if allowed) touching the arm softly and caressing it)...

They forget to take care of their body - this way the others have to be patient and to help them
eat, drink... As the life energy flows back to the middle of the life center (preparation for death)
over a longer time (what I got), not forcing them to eat, but softly encouraging them, softly
helping them... I saw people becoming harsh and loud: "Eat! You have to eat!" - but they cannot,
as according to the process of dying the life energy moves to the center - it is one of the first
steps of preparation to death. (I hope to share more about the steps of the dying process itself,
how the energy leaves the body in which steps, too... It may help a lot to understand what
happens - whether it is in seconds or over years...).

Yes, they get what we say - not in our words, but beyond words - in the dimensions where there
is understanding without words. One person with Alzheimer - the life energy still had floated
very much to the center - eating was no longer possible in a good way, drinking not - the body
followed the natural way of the dying process in refusing food and drinking (...also with harsh
reactions, as the natural dying process was taking place and eating and drinking would hurt on a
certain level, then. It is not easy to get "the" moment, when refusing food and drinking is one of
the sacred and powerful steps of the dying process in its natural way. It is not to be
misunderstood not to feed them and to give them to drink - but to see when the dying process
sets in with more power...).

Well - as I knew this man for about 25 years, I knew that there was one thing I knew from that
things still had to be cleared between certain people and him. I phoned the person and explained
the situation. She said that things are clear for them. I asked her to tell this so that the other
person (the man) gets it (some need to hear it) - so that he can let go this struggle... As the man
could no longer communicate at the phone I asked her to talk to the wife of the man to tell her
what she felt to tell and to tell it to the man, then. She did this. I also knew that the man felt that
he had to take care of his wife and his son (adult people). He wanted to know that they are taken
care of. When I sat with him I told him that he had prepared all he could to allow his wife and his
son a life in Beauty - that both are taken care of (as this was the truth), that he had gifted his son
with wisdom and support. That both in my eyes are prepared to live in Beauty - as he had
supported them all his life the best way... He had sat like sleeping before.

When I told this he became "awake" - he tried to speak - he looked into my eyes - and energy
was in his body... I thanked him also for all I was allowed to learn from him. Much energy was
felt around him, but he could not speak - but he was "there" for a short time as I saw his eyes... I
left with the feeling that important things were spoken out and released, that he felt calm, that he
felt and had got the feedback that his life had had a sense and that he had done good for the
family he left behind... About two days later the man died... (I will try to share what to offer to
tell people when they no longer "are there" to help them possibly to go easier, to let go, to go in
peace... As many cannot let go because of fear that family, loved ones are not taken care of, they
also need to get a clear feedback sometimes that their life had had a sense, too...)

These are best first things I wanted to share...I am very, very thankful that you share here, as this
had been a topic in my work that for some reason came in my life again and again (as other
"illnesses" where the body-spirit-connection is not as it is like for "normal" people - like trauma,
coma, also during narcosis, also with autistic people) - and I get connections about certain
"illnesses" - when the spirit is not (longer) in this body as people use to know it... (it might be
that more clear when having shared the other article I found about the spiritual information about
dementia...). I also worked with people who fainted (right word?), with narcosis, shock, trauma -
cases, where the spirit left the body (for a while) for certain reasons - and where the connection
becomes a bit more loose...Thank you all so much for sharing...

The wonderful words and thoughts that are here are so good. Cinnamon, Mari, Star. Releasing
our Loved Ones to the Great Mystery. It is a sacred and beautiful thing we do that resonates like
a great bell, the music of the spheres within us. And as we are with them, seeing the great void
from a distance, we are part of that mystery too in a more real way than sometimes we have ever
felt before.

we shared about Alzheimer and dementia last year - and it was so helpful. It also was the time
when all this happened what I shared above... I was not allowed to share these things earlier, as
the transition had to be honored in its privacy...Now it is allowed to share...Much love to you
(...here it is much work, too... Not much time... But I hope to be back, soon...)

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