I read an interesting blog post from Psychiatrist, Dr. Farid Sabet called Soul Essence Shining Through the Alzheimer's Brain. He speaks of the soul always being part of us, even if our mind is deteriorating. He says, "you will notice sparks of a soul shining through a dysfunctional brain."
We too often forget about the spiritual side of ourselves, particularly when we are dealing with dementia. All too often people say they "lost" their parent to Alzheimer's, even before the person has died. We think that our loved one is no longer who we once knew. In reaction to that, we might not know how to interact with someone with dementia since they seem to be "gone" so sometimes we don't interact with them at all. But if we remember that their soul, the essence of who they are, still remains, we remember their humanity.
In my theological understanding, I do not believe in heaven and hell, but I do believe in the soul. The soul as being the essence of who we are that is an energy which remains in this Universe for all time. That is why so much of my ministry focuses on discovering your own soul, who you truly are, because that helps us be happier and more productive, caring members of society. The more grounded we are in ourselves, the more we can help the world.
I believe children are far closer to understanding their soul than adults because they have not been taught as much as we have to be a certain way or please certain people. It is possible with dementia that people again come closer to their soul because they are going back to their core being.
For instance, my Mom still wants to care for people and animals. The same things, like a laughing child, make her smile. I see the essence of her still here, even if her memory is not here. She values love, relationships, and caring for others. That is who she is, and that is always who she will be. If we can see that more often, we are better able to spend time with our loved ones. We can just sit and listen to them, or if they no longer talk, we can talk about the things we know touch their soul. It is up to us to remember to see their soul through the illness.
When Mom was in the early stages of dementia, I made her a little scrapbook to hang on her wall which has photos of her in her element, with boxes of homemade cookies and her grandkids eating the cookies. It says "What you do may change, but who you are will never change." I always wanted her to know that even if she can't make cookies one day (and now she can't), the essence of who she is will always be here, and we will always try hard to remember that. I wanted her to remember that too, so she knows even if her mind is gone, her heart and soul are still here.