For many years I have expressed my thoughts about what I hear and what I see in working with people who are growing older and growing with dementia. The problem is, I have mostly expressed these thoughts to an inner circle of friends or colleagues.
I am so grateful that they have listened. They have inspired, encouraged, and challenged me. Yet, I feel antsy and frustrated. Am I really using my voice? Sometimes I think of the hundreds of elders I have sat with, the countless CNAs with whom I have been privileged to hear their frustrations, and their joys. The wives and husbands caring for their spouses living with dementia. Where have all these voices gone? Well, they live in me. They are a part of me. But have I honored these voices by truly using mine to share what they have told me and what we can learn?
That little voice inside me of me keeps nagging me, “Be heard.”
My voice has been developed through all of these experiences in working with, and listening to, people who are growing older and growing with dementia, and those who support them. I need to honor these voices, and my own, by putting my voice out there to the world. I feel the accountability and privilege of sharing what I think and feel. Not because I think my voice is the only voice, or that I think I have the answer, or that I know more than anyone else. Just because I think we all have to share our voices. And mine has been burning inside of me to be let out!
If we are to change the culture of aging, the culture of dementia, the culture of long-term care we must be willing to share our voices and listen to each other.
I hope that maybe some of the thoughts that are swirling around in this head and heart of mine might encourage others to share their thoughts, to think differently about something, to challenge the story we have been told about aging and dementia, and to build something new together, a paradigm of growing older and growing with dementia that truly starts with the person. We all need to be heard, because we all have a voice.