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Hamburger or gyoza?

My brother, Royce, just turned 97. He’s the oldest of our remaining siblings – six of 11, me being the youngest. He has 20 years on me, which makes me feel positively youthful. It also gives me hope that I may not be done yet – provided mind, body and heart cooperate.

If I should be so lucky, it also means that I may get to see how my two young grandkids turn out.а Will they be as brilliant and dynamic and compassionate and kind and happy as I hope they will be?а Or if they march to a different drummer than the one that beats in my so last-century heart, will I be as freaked out and judgmental as my elders were when I was growing up? It was so long ago, I can’t remember what it was about my generation that drove them nuts. Rock and roll probably.

I could also hope for more tranquility for the rest of my life, but I’m a realist. These are challenging times to be alive. The world is so upended, that it’s beginning to feel like an amusement park fun house, where everything is off balance and distorted and definitely crazy. Except that in a real fun house, there’s an exit that will let you back into the “real” world. It looks like we’re stuck in this one – but Lordy, for how long?

Speaking of advancing age. One of my worries is going barmy.а In case you’re not familiar with the word, it’s a Brit term for being dotty, goofy, or wacko. It’s said to date back to 1892 and may be derived from Barming in Kent, the location of a psychiatric hospital (a loony bin). These days, it could mean demented as in dementia. аSo you see why I worry.а

If I end up in that state, I hope there will be a place for me where people are patient and indulgent enough to play along with my new reality, because I bet there’s a rich and imaginative life going on in the minds of people with dementia. I bet too, that they suffer from a high level of frustration and depression because “normal” folks just don’t get it. аNo wonder they have tantrums.

I did a little Googling to see what’s up in world of dementia care, because it pays to be prepared. And guess what I found! Montessori for Aging and Dementia. It’s a program by the Montessori Institute of North Texas that adapts Maria Montessori’s approach to child development in education.а In a nutshell, the Montessori method is based on following children’s natural development as they move through progressive age groups, and creating learning environments suited to those needs. The Institute teaches how to apply those same principles to creating dementia friendly environments where patients can feel confident and appreciated, and be connected and useful to the best of their declining abilities. The idea reminds me of the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Remember that? It’s about a man who aged in reverse, and as he became progressively younger, bewildered social workers thought he was displaying early signs of dementia. In the end, a past love cares for him till he dies, physically an infant but actually 84 years old. Do you think dementia patients are mentally reverting to infancy?

In practical terms, I imagine the Montessori approach will work just fine in a protected environment. But what happens when you try to integrate people with dementia into the mainstream?

I recently stumbled on a Facebook post about just such an experiment in Japan. It was as quirky as its name – “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes.” It was a two-day pop-up restaurant that hired only waiters with dementia. You knew, going in, that what you ordered may not be what you ended up with. Can you imagine how you’d react if that happened in a regular restaurant?

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A food blogger gave it a shot, and ordered a hamburger. She ended up with gyoza dumplings instead. Fortunately, they were delicious. And the waiters, she said, were all smiles and seemed to be having fun.

It turns out, the organizers were making a point about dementia, and that with a little bit of understanding on our part, people with dementia can function in society. They plan to do it again in September to commemorate World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21).

Now that I think about it, maybe a dementia reality isn’t so bad compared to the crazy fun house we live in these days. Hell, I’d be happy getting gyoza instead of hamburger rather than the stomach churning swill we’re being force fed every day. Lordy.



Your reality

Is no less crazy than mine.

Step into my shoes.

ай Maya Leland 2014