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  • Buffy Burnett

Mindfulness: A merciful end to dementia

Updated: May 25

Panorama made from page 3 to 12 of an 18th century Burmese watercolour parabeik (picture book) showing scenes from the life of Gautama Buddha. Photoshop was used to combine a scan of pages 3 and 4 with another scan of pages 5 to 8 and another of pages 9 to 12. Source: Wikipedia

Disclaimer: This post contains information and opinions from someone with no background in medicine or science (proceed with extreme caution). Always consult with your own trusted medical and legal practitioners before making any decisions about diagnosis, treatment, estate planning, or outcomes for dementia or any other condition.


There is wisdom to live in the present (not the past or the future) and, if up to each of us, few would want to suffer; yet, life *is* suffering as Buddha taught us in his eternal wisdom.

For a woman from Texas raised without any particular religion, this is big news, y’all, and could not have come at a better time in helping our loved one to die with dementia.

Also, with deepest thanks to the Austin Public Library and Richard A. Singer, Jr., in his book: “Eastern Wisdom for Your Soul,” in which he shares this wisdom about mindfulness from meditation teacher and author, Sylvia Boorstein:

“[Mindfulness is] having the aware, balanced acceptance of present experience. It is not more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to or rejecting it.”

There is peace in realizing that there is nothing else for anyone to grasp but each moment without expectation or judgment.

We know this awareness is difficult because all we want is for our loved ones to stop suffering and to live forever. As modern medicine gets closer to this reality, then we hold out hope for scientific discovery to repair ourselves and to share this gift with the world; however, am not sure that we have thought this through due to overpopulation and Earth’s limited resources. Regardless, because we love them then we need them to stay with us; and, when we realize on a conscious level that they cannot, then we alternate between rage, grief, loneliness, and guilt for never doing enough.

RIIIIIIIING!!!!! My phone is ringing now and this frustrates the attempt to write about the present. Another moment to reflect upon living in the moment.

Before their present conditions, the other residents living with our loved one had their own lives filled with careers including human resources, social work, construction, musician, and as a female police officer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, a path that would have been considered non-traditional at the time. Even with all this knowledge, they are people with their memories obliterated by disease and now life is present: sleeping, toileting in a diaper, eating pureed food, and watching other people suffer, too, whether or not there is awareness or insight.

I do think that our loved one would have preferred death than to living this way but there is nothing humane that we can do to change the present except to help advocate for giving assisted suicide as an option to all in each and every state. We already do this for our pets, why not people? Of course, this decision will not be acceptable for everyone, but I would appreciate having this choice if suffering until death is the alternative; and yet, even if not available, then let us continue to live in the present.

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