Word is out that the Dalai Lama did the most horrific thing a world leader of Buddhism could do; asking a young boy to suck his tongue. President Bush senior butt-touched a female nurse, and my father turned against me. What is this and why does this happen? Why do some geriatric people grow mellow and sweet whilst others become combative, rude, or sexual?
Growing old, becoming ill, and undergoing medical procedures, a pandemic, vaccines, or taking pills are not good for the brain. It fast-tracks ageing and ageing often means becoming childish. Childish not as in behaving like a child but leaning on behavioral patterns and memories learned at the time of childhood and adolescence. In the case of the Dalai Lama this must have been his monastic training and living among young boys, being playful with young boys. Others -for instance- become shamelessly misogynistic or rude.
The deep adolescence-brain, young-adult patterns of behavior emerge ones more in full force around the time an elderly is diagnosed with dementia. Often there is still enough skill and smartness to hide the onset of cognitive decline which causes some to spot the onset of dementia earlier than others. ‘It started in 2019’. ‘No, it didn’t, it started in 2022’.
‘Dementia ripping families apart’ results in 3.740.000 links on Google.
Not many families are unified in dealing with dementia because some see dementia, whilst others see playfulness, naughtiness, character, upbringing, or culture. Despite all these excuses make a bit sense, essentially it is about a gradual loss of control that preludes dementia. Therefore one must listen to those who notice behavioral changes and not let these first ‘observers’ feel like they suffer from Cassandra Syndrome. Because the price for not believing them is high. Not only is a young boy needlessly shocked by the behavior of a world famous and loved religious leader, also the Dalai Lama has done great harm to his life work.
With denial of geriatric character changes or dementia comes terrible conflict and great sadness. How many now purge their bookshelves from books by the Dalai Lama? This could have been prevented by isolating the kind old man from those who think high of him. This should have been done. Like nurses of old people’s homes advising family members of demented elderly: ‘Don’t visit…you might get hurt and they don’t even remember your visit’.
Abuse is abuse, no matter whether somebody has used alcohol, drugs, medication, or suffers from dementia. It is a slippery slope to set one kind of abuse apart from another. Also, forgiveness paves the way for establishing a repetitive pattern. Yet, we must make a difference between hurt done by a person suffering from the early stages of dementia and hurt inflicted by a healthy mind. How can we do that?
It is highly recommendable to not deny ageing, nor cerebral and behavioral changes. No matter how brilliant someone has been; no matter how utterly harmless and kind, these geriatric changes cause elderly to make tragic and humongous mistakes. Like the Dalai Lama being the world’s most unstoppable promoter of (Buddhist) kindness. Holy and unholy people age and ageing can lead to making devastating mistakes. Like my father setting up siblings against me (and me against them). As a father you spend 50-60 years as a peace broker, keeping your children together, only to do the absolute reverse at the end. Dementia can lead to abusive behaviour, risking undoing all that is so carefully is achieved over a lifetime. Is that tragic or not?
Belette le Pink: ‘My friend is starting to lose his mind. It puzzled me because only a few months ago he was a clever and sensitive person. Now he is like a child fantasizing and reacting angrily. I stayed with him in silence but it is really difficult to deal with people when you are not trained to take care of geriatric patients; they consume your patience. I second that old people must be reprimanded when they show bad behavior no matter their age. Old people tend to be forgiven for everything, and it is okay to forgive but you must reprimand even if that is unpleasant. When you take care of your parents out of empathy or love, it’s a real nightmare, especially taking care of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. I have friends who went through that experience and it left them depressed because of feelings of guilt. People with dementia or Alzheimer are out of the world and “out of service” and it is you who is here and you will be here in the future, so it is you first. To keep this in mind might be the best surviving strategy which enables you to help old people’.
Maybe abuse and hurt by old people isn’t 100% preventable but at least it should be limited. Abuse by elderly shouldn’t be brushed away because it won’t go away. Hurt will stay if we continue glorifying and respecting unfit old men and women. It is paramount to let them retire. We should keep a very close eye on their behavior, take lead over them, and not fall for their charisma or charms. In age old people can shine brilliantly, like a star that expands before it implodes. Instead, we should provide elderly people with an insignificant place out of the public eye where they can grow old in a relaxed way and prevent shame that comes with failures. At first they might feel mortified, downsized, angry, irrelevant, and consequently they will lash out but that only confirms the need for them to step down.
Our society keeps old people alive years or decades after they are capable of surviving without the help of medication. Modern medicine ignores what we used to say is ‘God’s calling’. In cases in which this leads to a second chance in life, it is great science. In cases it leads to hurtful geriatric behavior, depression, and dementia, one is justified to ask whether a death-defying intervention is a happy one.
Please, help each other preventing elderly people from hurting next generation(s). Stop them, even if that is a Sisyphean task. Reprimand them. Warn each other; console each other. Form a united front. Believe it when somebody waves a red flag. Just because an elderly becomes abusive is so out of sorts and so unbelievable, you better put your trust in unpleasant observations.
Poetically, becoming an abusive elderly is like guardian angels have left the scene and little devils have taken over.
Biologically, empathy diminishes with age. Being kind without empathy takes a huge effort. Gracefully growing very old doesn’t come naturally to all and everyone of us. For some it turns out to be one of the most difficult things in a human’s life.
Spiritually, growing very old is like risking undoing your whole legacy, which is tragic.
Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.
P.S. A related post ‘When an Elderly Parent Hurts You’ is here.
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