Symphony of Spirits: Encounters with the Spiritual Dimensions of Alzheimer's
St. Martin's Press, Nov 15, 2000 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 224 pages
In a culture that worships youth and beauty, more people than ever will be facing the problems of aging. Perhaps the least understood and most feared of the aging diseases are Alzheimer's and the other neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's and Parkinson's. Because these diseases destroy the mind as well as the body, they seem to rob the victims of all the qualities that once made them human. They engender a hopelessness in the medical profession and families alike, resulting in a sense that these people are already gone. Yet, in Symphony of Spirits Dr. Forrest shows through her unique experiences as a geriatric care giver that if we acknowledge the spiritual dimension of these patients, the "worthless" last years of people suffering from these types of diseases can be the most valuable.
When Dr. Forrest took a temporary position at a geriatric hospital in Atlanta, she trusted her extensive medical training to prepare her for the physical and mental challenges of working with elderly patients suffering with dementia. But she quickly learned it just wasn't enough. Working alongside three unique caregivers, Native American nurses with deeply held spiritual beliefs and an uncompromising respect for all life, Forrest experienced a new way of looking at life and death that valued these special patients as "undiscovered treasures."
Through her patients, like Momma Sissy, a 102 year-old African American woman who still worked a farm in South Carolina and Stephen Z., a retired engineer whose wife of 50 years still spoke of their ongoing love for each other, Forrest came to appreciate the special wisdom that comes from living life. Working especially with Aunt Mel, an independent strong-willed elder and Granny Ada, the matriarch of an Appalachian mountain clan, taught Forrest the importance of loving relationships for long-term mental and physical health.
In the tradition of Raymond Moody and Deepak Chopra, Dr. Forrest proposes a
momentary suspension of scientific skepticism and prejudice for a more poignant, humanizing method of caring for Alzheimer's patients.
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