Book Review: A Sage, a Psycholgist, a Physician, and an Intern Guide Us Deeper into the Soul


Deeper into the Soul:  Beyond Dementia and Alzheimer’s Toward Forgetfulness Care, by Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D. and Bogna Szymkiewiecz, Ph.D.,  shifts our attitude about Dementia. Rather than looking upon Dementia as a disease, we find that people with Dementia can teach us about life and living, and give us an opportunity to go deeper into our souls. We move from the medical terms “Dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” to “forgetfulness.”

Our guides through this attitudinal shift, artfully designed by Piotr Orlik,  are four characters, a sage, a psychologist, a physician, and an intern, artfully portrayed in cartoon characters.  Each presents a different perspective. For example, when the intern says, “So many people her seem to be confused or lost…How can we help them?,” the sage replies, “…there is nothing wrong with people who forget what we think is worth remembering.  Be curious about what you don’t understand.  They live in different realities and thus they have much to teach us!”

The word “dementia,” as explained by the psychologist, means “away from mind.”  The sage replied, “Once a person with ‘dementia’ told me that when the mind goes away, the soul is released.”  The physician gives practical advice to create the atmosphere of being with a person who forgets.  She suggests, “Approach a person from the front, so that she can see you, move slowly when you are clost, assume an equal or lower position, state your name.” When approaching a person with forgetfulness, the sage suggests, “Approach the person with forgetfulness as if you were just about to enter the unknown, a sacred space.  Communication is not only about content.  It is also – sometimes most of all – about feelings.”

Each page of the book opens a new way of looking at forgetfulness. For example, if a person with forgetfulness seems to be always looking for food, the doctor suggests, “provide fruits or raw vegetables.”  The authors did not go further into the topic of eating, but in a future exploration of this topic, they  might look into whether the desire to eat represents some under underlying emotional or sensory desire (i.e., for companionship, touch, love).

The authors point out the attitudinal shift of Robert Butler, pioneer reminiscence therapist, who recalls that tin the 1950s, “living in the past” was seen as a symptom of senility, “as one of the signs of living a meaningless life.”  He states, “Far from living in the past or exhibiting ‘wandering of the mind,’ as was commonly thought, older people are engaged in the important psychological tasks of making sense of the lives they had lived.” In this section, and throughout the book, goals and assumptions, techniques, and characteristics of the therapy are described.

Over six pages of bibliography are provided for further research into the topics of dementia, alzheimer’s,  and forgetfulness. Less than 130 pages, and presented in a clear, inviting format, this book is a must for family members who have a loved one with forgetfulness, as well as researchers, hospital workers, professional healthcare providers, interns, and teachers.

Deeper in the soul:  Beyond dementia and Alzheimer’s Toward Forgetfulness Care is published by Elders Academy Press,

Dr. Sally Gelardin, AgeSong Today Journalist

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