I had the oddest experience one day. I’d popped into a grocery store to pick up a few items. On my list were cheese, milk, and a dozen eggs. Inside the store, I immediately headed over to the ‘dairy products’ section hoping to get my groceries and move on with my day as quickly as possible.
Steering the cart around the aisle to the side of the store where the dairy products were displayed, I suddenly stopped short. Instead of cheese and milk, the cold cases contained lunch meat, hot dogs, and a variety of deli items. What happened? Was I thinking of a different store? It had only been a short time since I had been there and remembered…well…I thought I’d remembered buying cheese from that very spot.
For a brief moment, I felt a bit bewildered. Then I realized the store must have simply re-arranged where they displayed their items. Checking around, I was able to find what I was looking for, went through the self-check, and headed home.
Who moved my Cheese?
On my way home, as I was thinking about my shopping experience, the title of an old book written in 1998 by Dr. Spencer Johnson came to mind, called “Who moved my Cheese?” It is an allegory describing four typical reactions to changes that happen in life. The characters in the story are two mice and two mice-sized ‘Littlepeople’ and how they dealt with the changes in their cheese supply.
It is an interesting study on coping with changes. If someone is experiencing dementia, it is as if their cheese is constantly changing and being moved. It occurred to me that my little episode of uncertainty turned out to be a blessing, as it pulled back the curtain on the minute-by-minute changes that happen in the lives of our loved ones facing dementia. It helped me gain an understanding of what someone with dementia must go through multiple times a day. This is an empathy we can all benefit from. Empathy helps us see things for what they really are.
According to 6seconds.org, “Empathy comes from ancient Greek; the prefix “em-” means “in,” and “pathos” for “feeling.” So literally, empathy means, “infeeling.”…To be ‘in-feeling’ with ourselves or someone else, connects us at an emotional level.
Virtual dementia experience
Not there? Don’t despair. If you’re local grocery doesn’t re-arrange items often enough to provide you with an experience similar to mine. There are plenty of other ways of having a ‘virtual dementia experience’. One obtainable option is to enroll in a virtual dementia program that may be offered at a local care-giving facility or senior center. If there are none available, another option can come in the form of an app for your phone. One that is called ‘A Walk Through Dementia’ offers the ability to combine a cardboard headset available for around $10 to receive the full benefit of the app. (By the way, I have no connection to this app, it simply seems to offer a benefit.)
Or, if your preferred avenue of learning is through reading, there is a wonderful article, ‘Cultivating Empathy as a Caregiver’ that offers some great tips and advice on kindness and empathy.
As our empathy quotient increases, we may find ourselves experiencing “udder” frustration and stress when our loved one makes the same statement over and over or repeatedly asks the same question. We can smile to ourselves, knowing what the real question is, “Who moved my cheese?”
Has your world been touched by dementia?
My book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find joy on your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook