Tag: Mayo Clinic

Spiritual Health in the Face of Dementia

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Have you ever ridden into a box canyon? It is difficult to see the way out and the walls threaten to cut one off from all that is normal.

Caring for a loved one challenged with dementia can feel like that. It is wearing. For those who cannot afford help it can be exhausting and frightening. All who provide care in these circumstances, paid or unpaid, need aid themselves.

Dementia is not a specific disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Rather, it “describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning”. The caregivers in such a situation become the providers of necessary daily functioning for those who seem unable.

The Mayo Clinic Staff continues with advice to caregivers in such circumstances: “Providing for a person with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Often the primary caregiver is a spouse or other family member. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry, grief, and social isolation are common. If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia: 1) Ask friends or other family members for help when you need it; 2) Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health”.

Perhaps focusing on this last point, spiritual health, would help in great measure to meet the physical and emotional needs of anyone caring for those exhibiting dementia. But how does one achieve “spiritual health”?

For me, it includes addressing fears by gaining a sense of God’s infinite love for us.

Unaddressed, fear can block our recognition of needed answers in giving care, it can overwhelm us in apprehension for our own safety, and plummet one into a sense of depression.

But when fear is spiritually overcome the practical impact can be liberating. The perfect example of this was when Christ Jesus, whose fearlessness consistently brought healing, encountered a tragically insane Gadarene man called Legion. Despite this man’s miscreant reputation, self-destructive tendencies, and social isolation, Jesus spoke with him normally and showed his Christly love for one who’d probably never received such restorative attention. That fearless care not only calmed him but cured him permanently.

Could this be possible today? Yes. Even the Mayo report allows, “Some causes of dementia may be reversible”. So, why shouldn’t a caregiver, expressing sufficient spiritual love, not only overcome his or her own fear but extend this sense of God’s love to the one being cared for such that the condition may abate? Over many years in the periodicals of my church there are accounts of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, being reversed through a spiritual understanding of God’s healing love.

Many in the business of extending care to humanity have found strength in a more divine motivation for doing their work. I find this statement from a seminal writing on the relationship between spirituality and health encouraging: “It is proverbial that Florence Nightingale and other philanthropists engaged in humane labors have been able to undergo without sinking fatigues and exposures which ordinary people could not endure. The explanation lies in the support which they derived from the divine law, rising above the human. The spiritual demand, quelling the material, supplies energy and endurance surpassing all other aids, and forestalls the penalty which our beliefs would attach to our best deeds.” (S cience and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 385)

Filled with love for God and mankind, divine inspiration can lead us out of the box canyon of apprehension, lifting our thoughts above the shadowy dimensions of caregiving, and brightening the way of those in our charge.

This article was published in the Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, August 5, 2015.

Societal and Personal Health

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Typical of David Brooks, journalist, author, and social, political, and philosophical commentator, he has written a beautiful piece in his recent NYT column, “The Prodigal Sons” (New York Times, February 18, 2014). Referencing Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son*, Mr. Brooks conveys the idea that the social health of society is improved when we are neither morally wanton in our ways (the younger son in the parable) nor morally self-righteous (the elder son).  It is a great and quick read if you are not familiar with the parable.  The ideal is the father of the two sons, who is constant in his forgiveness and inclusion of both, and of all around him.

Mr. Brooks’s conclusion to the article (See, http://nyti.ms/1fujvFB) is that “if you live in a society that is coming apart on class lines, the best remedies are oblique.  They are projects that bring the elder and younger brothers together for some third goal: national service projects, infrastructure-building, strengthening a company or congregation.  The father offers each boy a precious gift.  The younger son gets to dedicate himself to work and discipline.  The older son gets to surpass the cold calculus of utility and ambition, and experience the warming embrace of solidarity and companionship.”

This insight is not just about squandering inheritances and sibling rivalry, but is really about maintaining a healthy outlook through patience and understanding, rather than through self-righteousness.

It’s very practical. I once wanted to remove a tree root. Using my axe and long earned, but somewhat stale, camp skills, I began whacking away.  It wasn’t happening.  Instead of appreciating the problem I applied more force.  Right.  The axe head sprang back and hit me in the forehead.  Not a healthy outcome.  I had built up a self-righteous grudge against the root.  I learned.  Intensifying will was not a solution.  Gaining a calm perspective was.  When I did, the wound healed without a scar.

Sometimes we become quite certain in our views of right and wrong, …judgmental and critical, even condemning.  We want to just whack away at the root of what we see as “the problem”, the other’s point of view. That runs the risk of hurting everyone. The younger son wanted to rebel against his upbringing.  The elder wanted to criticize the younger for his wantonness.  Wantonness and self-righteousness, like bad roots, are best removed not by harsh judgment and contempt, but by a patient, understanding and forgiving awareness.

Certainly the correlation between forgiveness and health is well established today.**

The healthy approach is the one the father took. Steadily viewing both of his sons through the lens of a loving father, he embraced them both, albeit in different ways. This love of a father, in its largest context, is divine Love that reaches us all and teaches us the act of forgiveness and the embrace of mankind.  Perhaps, this is the fuller lesson of the parable and a key to our societal health, as well as our personal health.

*Luke 15:11-32

**Mayo Clinic Staff article, November 23, 2011

Published as “Your Health and Society’s Health are Intertwined” by Lake Havasu City News Herald, Friday, March 21, 2014

Cloak of Compassion

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

She couldn’t care for herself. There was no family. There were loving friends but they didn’t have the skill. The need was apparent. Fear was pervasive.

Not far away was a hospice. After a call, two competent, quiet, non-judgmental individuals arrived to clean and redress the wounds of the ill patient. A bit of joy emerged. They assured the patient that they would return to help as needed, in a manner respectful of her beliefs and expectations.

There is no price to place on these instances of timely care — of loving, practical support present at the moment of greatest need. There was no lecturing, no analyzing of worthiness — no technology to separate heart meeting heart. Their efforts were remarkably kind.

A perfect model of palliative-care can be seen in the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, who, finding a wounded man left unattended by others, approached this stranger, bandaged him, placed him on his burro, took him to an inn, and provided funds for his care by the innkeeper.

Fittingly, November is national hospice/palliative care month and there is reason to be immensely grateful for the commitment of those who do this work.

Several years ago in Arizona, there was a conference for end-of-life professionals. They had asked eight faiths to share their views on this subject. The purpose was to broaden the understanding of these care-givers so they could better meet the needs of patients, in a manner respectful of the individual patient’s beliefs…a most admirable pursuit.

While all can and should appreciate the care that hospice and palliative-care professionals provide the uncomforted, the assumed certainty of near-term death may be unnecessary. This assumption seems to be shifting currently.

Palliative (from the Latin palliare, meaning “to cloak”) has been defined as “care for the terminally ill and their families.” Yet, there is a distinction between hospice care and palliative care. Hospice care is offered at home or in facilities tending to the terminally ill. Palliative-care is multi-disciplinary, including spiritual care, which is not restricted to end-of-life prognoses. Palliative care continues expanding into traditional medical environments. As a recent report notes, “The focus on a patient’s quality of life has increased greatly during the past 20 years. In the United States today, 55 percent of hospitals with more than 100 beds offer a palliative-care program, and nearly one-fifth of community hospitals have palliative-care programs.”

In a recent article by the Mayo Clinic staff, this distinction was re-emphasized, stating that palliative-care is not tied to termination of life but to the need for comfort during times that would otherwise be more painful.

It doesn’t appear that the Good Samaritan expected the stranger, whom he had helped, to die at the inn. He had offered to return and pay for additional provisions for the injured traveler. He was expecting the man to continue his life.

As the hospice concept and the palliative-care concept further develop and overlap in purpose, all care can become less disease and end-of-life focused. The compassion witnessed in both approaches will take the lead in how to treat the uncomforted, with the added expectation of wholeness and health. No longer will hospice and palliative-care be simply a cloak to cover the acceptance of decline and termination. The great good that the hospice and palliative care workers do today may find yet greater good in the projection of life, not death, with the role of compassion progressing beyond the cloaking of pain.

Many have found comfort in this excerpt from an interpretation of the 23rd Psalm by the health seeker, religious leader, and author of “Science and Health,” Mary Baker Eddy, where the term “Love” is used for the Divine: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me; [Love’s] rod and [Love’s] staff they comfort me.”  As a human expression of the divine Love, the compassion given by hospice and palliative-care workers can help patients walk on through the valley of death, not merely come to final rest there.

— Rich Evans of Scottsdale is the spokesman for the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona.

Published: November 18, 2013 at 9:15 am, as guest opinion in the Arizona Capitol Times
Read more: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2013/11/18/cloak-of-compassion/#ixzz2lg49cabV

“Whole-body Healing”…Good Step

The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Friday, January 5, 2013) in its “your health” section entitled, “Whole-body Healing” written by Ken Alltucker.  The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine.  Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard.  While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM).  As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”.  This is a breakthrough article for this column.

The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease.  Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully.  I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient.  The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.

One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame.  In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole”.  Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.

The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed.  Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy.  My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives.  More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being, is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.

I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being.  Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health.  It certainly is for me.