You are a Sherpa

If you are reading this blog post I assume it is because you have some contact with a person with dementia or a reason for wanting to know more about how to act or relate with the person with dementia. Or you may have had some difficulties that have prompted you to want to know more about how to do it.

The role of living with and caring for a person with dementia is akin to being a sherpa for a mountaineer who requires the guidance and support of our knowledge and skills to climb the mountain of dementia.

Sherpa originally referred to the tribe in Nepal whose social custom was to provide humane and courageous mountain guides to outsiders. (Urban Dictionary).

You know these peaks and valleys of their lives, their personalities, their life stories and can respond to their need, moment to moment. You help them without doing it for them. You do not take over but support so that the person with dementia can succeed themselves. Sometimes this requires very little support but on other occasions it requires the sensitivity to judge the moment and provide just the right amount and type of support at just the right time.

Sherpa is an honourable role and attracts great respect. It is not possible for strangers to ascend to the summit without your guidance and support. Humane and courageous. There are moments in the ascent of the mountain of dementia that require great courage and great humanity. Part of the sherpa’s role is to be aware of what the mountaineer needs from moment to moment. To think about them, to remember them, and at times to remember for them, to remember what they need and are likely to need. Encouragement, comfort, reality-check, knowledge, validation. They cannot do this without you.

More to come in the following days and weeks.