Presentation on theme: "Why personhood used to be good for people with dementia: spirituality, humanness and the importance of not being a person."— Presentation transcript:
Why personhood used to be good for people with dementia: spirituality, humanness and the importance of not being a person
Why does Dementia Attract violence? Why does dementia attract so much violence and fear?
“If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.” Baroness Mary Warnock …putting it rather brutally, you’d be licensing people to put others down. Actually I think why not, because the real person has gone already and all that’s left.
“She is not the person she used to be?” “I’d kill myself if I ended up like that!” “I’d rather remember him the way that he was”
Is it wise to kill the vulnerable? Killing children in Belgium Killing people with dementia in Holland Killing the elderly because they are old! Killing prisoners because they are depressed
Fear is the Enemy of Community Community is the place where we discover who we are
If personhood is the criterion for dignity, value and a life worth living then we are all in danger.
If compassion forms the basis of our moral decisions, then we are all in trouble!
What exactly is a person? A framework of beliefs about human beings that we use to make certain decisions in relation to how we should be with one another. It is a human creation often used to help us make difficult decisions without taking responsibility for them! It is a necessary concept if you think being human is not enough.
What is a person? Personhood is the human ability for: self-awareness, self-control, a sense of the future, a sense of the past, the capacity to relate to others, concern for others, communication and curiosity Peter Singer Practical Ethics
Relational Personhood? It is a standing or status that is bestowed upon one human being by others, in the context of relationships and social being. It implies recognition, respect and trust. Tom Kitwood Dementia Reconsidered: The person comes first
What kind of person is to be found in person-centred care?: Person-centred language as a pseudonym for looking beyond our constructed expectations
Personhood used to be good for people with dementia, but things are changing. Personhood has done some good work in the past. But it is open to lay and professional interpretations that are literally deadly (socially and biologically) for people with dementia. We have a model of person-centred care where the idea of ‘person’ is not really thought through and is therefore not particularly protective of people with dementia.
Either we reject the idea of personhood, or, we fill it with new content
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Bethel Community
The soulfulness of the body And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7; KJV) St. Augustine described human beings as terra animata, “animated earth.” Human beings are thus seen to be created from matter, but inspired/given breath/brought into living existence by the very breath of God. We are our bodies as we are our souls.
All Human Encounters are Holy Moments As earth animated by the breath of God, human beings are seen to be “holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy Every-Body is holy Attending to God’s creatures is in fact a mode of attending to God
Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Tears and violence can be ways of protecting ourselves from what is unbearable, from our own vulnerability, from our own pain
The Heart Heart occurs frequently in the Bible and in Christian writing … The word is used in the Scriptures ten times to refer to the physical organ of the heart, but it is used more than a thousand times to describe the root or sources of diverse personal functions. In this early usage “heart” meant the whole, total person; the individual at this time was not understood as a being with the separate faculties of intellect and will, but as a unity. The heart from this perspective was not associated with the will, affections, or emotions as opposed to reason or the intellect. It was looked to as the single root of all thought and wishes and of the moral and religious life. (Michael Downey)
Jean Vanier and the way of the heart The central insight for Vanier is that the person is the heart. Understanding basic human needs is the key to the heart. Attention to human needs helps us to understand the dimension of the human person that is most basic or fundamental and that is experienced in the encounter with the disabled and the vulnerable. The heart is the deepest most fundamental aspect of the human being that is touched and transformed by the Spirit. For Vanier The person is the heart
The affective core of humanness “Behind all the barriers built up since childhood, there is the pure and innocent heart of a child where the gift of God resides. The heart is capable of receiving and giving love, of living in communion with another person and with God, capable of being a source of life for others. In the designs of God, it is the heart which is meant to inspire all human activities.”
The problem for many people is that their models of personhood are heartless
The problem for many people with dementia is that their hearts are broken
Humanness is something that we do together: heart- to-heart and soul-to-soul Friendships are of the heart. Communion requires learning how to receive care Communion takes time Communion requires lament Reclaiming the Heart of Dementia Care