Dealing as a Spiritual, Magickal Caregiver of Alzheimer or Dementia Patients Article Two — Mental Health Techniques for the Caregiver
by Silver RavenWolf
Note: Although the Alzheimer/Dementia articles focus on these symptoms, many of the techniques can be used by Caregivers of any kind. Don’t let the topic turn you off if you aren’t there. You may find some helpful suggestions for other healing situations.
Swimming through the mire of Alzheimer’s/Dementia care can be one of the most disconcerting segments of your life. Many times I felt I was more confused than the patient when facing negative personality outbursts, hallucinations, and outright abnormal behavior exhibited by the Base Personality.* Trying to bring sanity to a constant barrage of insanity puts the caregiver in a personally debilitating situation. This is true whether you are the personal caregiver or working in a nursing home/hospital environment.
Over the past several years I’ve held a Healing Circle at my home on a cyclical basis. As a group, we do ritual and magick, prayer and spellcasting for a variety of needs for those individuals in the group, as well as friends, family and strangers outside of the group. For the past two years we almost always begin with petitions for Mental Clarity wherein we invoke the God, Thoth, asking for His assistance in all situations associated with that subject matter. Whether you are dealing with an individual in Stages 1-3 (mild), Stages 4 and 5 (moderate) or Stages 6 and 7 (Severe) working for your own mental health and clarity is vital to your personal wellbeing. Whether you believe in magick or not, the simple psychological act of choosing to welcome a clear mind and level head can be in no way harmful. Every session, since I realized we were dealing with a diagnosis of Dementia, I have worked for mental clarity for myself and all my family members.
Yet, what if you don’t have a good group to work with? Are you left lost and adrift? Absolutely not! Part of my magickal regime here for several years has included two important processes:
1. Performing weekly Spiritual Cleansings on myself as well as cleansing the house.
2. Releasing negativity by removing the clutter. In fact, the Release Program I post every year around the holidays had its basis in my efforts to keep my living environment as energy stable as possible.
A Spiritual Cleansing is a concerted effort to reduce negativity around you and in your environment while at the same time, heightening or increasing an area’s energy level (or the positive vibrations of self). There are many techniques and formulas for Spiritual Cleansings from the simple act of smudging with incense or white sage, to a full ritual that involves carrying blessed elements (earth, air, fire, water) around the home. A Personal Spiritual Cleansing involves clearing the energy area directly around the body by use of a variety of tools including Florida Water, Blessed Perfume, Holy Water, Lemon or Citrus Water, Tuning Forks, Rattles, Sacred Music, Drumming, Bells, etc. You will find information on Spiritual Cleansings and mental cleansings in my books: MindLight and A Witches Notebook.
When I teach my seminars I often remark to folks that people take a great deal of time choosing shower gels, make-up, and specific clothing to adorn themselves and keep themselves mentally happy; but, they forget about the most important garment they own — their aura (the energy sphere around you). You can buy all the expensive cloths and personal care items you want; but, if your aura just rolled out of a junk yard created by your negative thoughts (which hang around you) then all that special care is worthless. You think people see you and judge you on those fancy jeans you’re wearing — but, in reality, they sense your aura first with their own personal radar without even realizing it. Granted, they may not listen to that personal radar is saying; however, there are many, many people who accept their feelings and process them within their opinion of you no matter what you are wearing, saying, or how you are carrying yourself. If you are living in a household of Dementia-Gone-Wild — just what do you think people are picking up about you when you have the chance to get out of that environment? Are they seeing you for you or are they picking up the energy garbage dump of your home life?
A Spiritual Cleansing of both self and your environment help to keep you neat and clean both mentally and physically. I perform a Spiritual Cleansing technique in the shower every single day by doing the Lesser Banishing Ritual (LBR) and invoking specific runes that are important to me. I do this in the shower because running water is very powerful both magickally and physically, holding whatever charge you put in it. Many times I will add a fresh, cut lemon to my body cleansing routine. The aroma revitalizes as well as cleanses and leaves me feeling great!
I have learned that the biggest enemy in my home is not the dementia; but, the threat of my own depression and fear. Knowing and understanding that I am responsible for my thoughts and feelings puts the control of the situation back in my hands. Practicing Spiritual Cleansings for both myself and my environment gives me the power and the confidence I need to continue my role as the caregiver. Further on in this article I’ll be giving you a list of Herbal Correspondences I’ve developed for both magickal use (conjuring bags, poppets, etc.) as well as aromatherapy ideas.
Releasing Negativity By Removing Clutter
Whether you have just learned that a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia or you are slogging through the crazy-as-a-bed-bug stage, it is vitally necessary to remove the clutter from your environment as well as the environment of the patient. I realize this is far easier envisioning than putting into practice because many Alzheimer’s/Dementia patients can have OCD behavior or are out-right hoarders. To remove one piece of paper from their environment can be like opening a can of countrified whoop-ass.
And then some.
Hoarding stuff is a fear-based (in most cases) mentality (although they have actually linked a gene marker to addictive behavior that includes hoarding). Regardless of choice or genetics, the crap has got to go and not just for your mental health. An ambulance team cannot wade through the mountain of stuff to get to the patient should a medical emergency occur, and if they have to, they can report the caregiver as being irresponsible and endangering the elderly. I didn’t say they will; but, they can. And, trust me, since Alzheimer’s/Dementia is a long process, you or your family will experience at least one event in which a medical team may be necessary. Most families I’ve talked to have experienced at least three to four events, particularly in the Stages 5 through 7. Sometimes these events occur because the family does not know how to handle the new symptoms of each successive stage, and other times there is a real medical emergency depending upon pre-existing medical conditions of the patient. Regardless, removing the junk can give you added peace of mind.
If you anticipate a major battle with the patient about his or her living conditions, be sure to talk to his or her health care provider on what actions or remedies can be taken to ensure the environment is safe. This was one of the biggest hurdles our family faced as the family member we deal with was a hoarder twenty years before the dementia diagnosis was given. It wasn’t until our family member was near the end of Stage 4 that we were able to completely clear the living area, repaint it, and remove the ragged carpet and replace it with sturdy flooring, and even then the family member used urine as a weapon of retaliation.
Oh, yes, indeedy.
Practical reasoning aside, let’s talk about psychological ones, particularly in your own environment. Being a caregiver is a 24/7 job with little emotional break unless you orchestrate (which you should) times of relaxation and respite. Putting your feet up and settling back into a comfortable chair surrounded by mountains of stuff, clutter, junk, etc., makes you feel closed in, trapped, confined. As a caregiver, you are already trapped (to some extent) by your duties — to choose to live in the same type of psychological confinement is just asking for trouble from the Depression Genie. Being a caregiver can be so overwhelming that cleaning might be the last thing on your mind; but, if you don’t then you’ll have two overwhelming problems at the same time — a recipe for mental disaster.
Yes, I know you are tired, both physically and emotionally, so if the area you now live in is really in bad shape, take it one step at a time. Start with a junk drawer, move on to a closet…choose whatever suits your mental state and your time window. When you clear the clutter from any area you will experience a psychologically uplifting feeling — don’t blow it by looking at the rest of the place. Instead, congratulate yourself for what you accomplished, and move on.
Magickally, clearing the clutter is vitally important so that the energy in your environment can move freely, and be replenished. Dirt, dust, and stuff collect negative vibrations, unhealthy emotions, etc. Removing the clutter allows the positive energy to envelop and enhance your daily activities. Coupled with the Spiritual Cleansings we talked about earlier can boost your spiritual, mental, and physical health.
Magickal Herbs for General Healing, Alzheimer’s/Dementia
Herbs can be used for Dream Pillows, Conjuring Bags, Loading Candles or adding to Wax Burners, in Packets to put under the pillow, Charm Bags and Sachets, combined into Potpourri and Magickal Powders. Their benefits are powerful and varied in healing endeavors. The herb list I’m covering here are not for ingesting, rather used for their aroma, texture, and magickal correspondences. When researching herbs for Alzheimer’s/Dementia situations for the patient as well as the caregiver, I have found the following have been used either for ingestion or for aromatherapy. If you would like to add herbal supplements to your own diet or that of the patient, consult the attending physician — particularly with herbs such as Gingko Biloba which presents a bleeding hazard especially for patients on blood thinners. This list is for magickal use only, and not intended for consumption.
Sage — Cleansing Rosemary — Cleansing Ginger — Revitalize Nettle — Banish Ginseng — Revitalize Chamomile — Aromatherapy — Cleansing Fennel — Memory Retention Green Tea — Cleanses Toxins Mint — Aromatherapy — Memory Retention Hot Peppers — Energy Flow, Cleansing Lavender — Aromatherapy, Cleansing Hawthorn — Banish Evening Primrose — Cleansing Rose — Aromatherapy, Cleansing Frankincense — Aromatherapy, Cleansing Myrrh — Aromatherapy, Cleansing Cinnamon — Revitalize Eyebright — Memory Retention
As many Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients struggle with fear, ensuring that their living area is scented with comforting aromas is a good way to work for calm and serenity. Granted, a burning candle for health hazard reasons may be out of the question, particularly when you are not in the room; but, there are other ways to scent the area such as room sprays, fabric softener pads tucked in stored clothing or even the diaper box. I’ve found Lavender and Spruce scents to be particularly helpful here, followed by food aromas such as gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and the like. While you’re at it, check into appropriate placed lighting that invites soothing and calm emotions.
In your own area you will have more freedom to choose what you place where, and how. Make a concerted effort to find aromas that please you and make you feel comfortable so that the first cup of coffee or tea as you prepare for the day ahead is truly enjoyable. Yes, you have to be a caregiver in the next few minutes; but, right now? There is no reason you cannot feel calm and serene. You deserve it!
Thank you for joining me as we worked through this second article. I know that not every day is going to be a good day for you. Maybe today was rough or perhaps, not so bad. Do know, however, that you are not alone. That many of us are marching down the Dementia Road together.
Hold your head up, kid. We’re going to make it better.
Join me for our next article — The Spirit Walk. Please feel free to add your comments or corrections to this article. If you haven’t read the first article which gives links to the 7 Stages of Dementia, explanation of the Base Personality, and a link to the Mayo Clinic site for more information on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, please refer to my previous blog entry.