I’ve never done well in the boxes society and others wish to confine me. I like to colour outside the lines. I hate rules and policies. I’m a true Aquarian: independent, unconventional and thirsty for knowledge and discovery. That may be why I have found it relatively easy to understand and accept the behavioural expressions of people who live with dementia as “normal,” and to embrace the work of innovative thinkers such as Dr. Gabor Maté.
In Maté’s view, normalcy is a continuum on which we all exhibit traits and behaviour that have traditionally been labeled as “normal” and “abnormal.” Behaviour, he says is “contextual and cultural. Disease is not an isolated phenomenon of the individual, it’s a culturally constructed paradigm.”
I would suggest that part of the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias arises from the limited ways in which arbitrarily define what “normal” is. Expanding our universe to create space for behaviour to which we may not be accustomed, but which is not inherently better or worse than what culture specifies, will, I think, result in a more inclusive, rich and diverse world.
I also love Maté’s take on the impact our materialistic society has on the way we value, or more to the point, devalue the elderly and other who don’t feed into the production/consumption frenzy on which western society has increasingly come to manifest.
“What we value is not who people are, but what they produce or what they consume,” Maté says. “And the people who neither consume nor produce are ostracized, shunted aside and totally devalued. Hence the rejection of old people, because they no longer produce and they’re not rich enough to consume a lot either. So the very nature of this materialistic society dictates or generates and promotes the separation that from ourselves.”
I suggest it also separates us from each other. Food for thought.
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