Heart for dementia came into being through my personal experience as a caregiver for my partner Henk, who suffered from dementia. For 11 years of my life I took care of him with all my heart.
For the last 5 years of his life he lived in a care home, Nieuw Graswijk, in the city of Assen. In July 2011 he passed away.
I still remember the day we heard the diagnosis. We had been searching for 3 years to find out what the problem was. Together we sat opposite the neurologist who showed us the result of the MRI-scan. "Look Henk", I said with great enthusiasm in my voice, "it looks just like Emmental cheese with lots of holes in it." Because what do you say when you have just heard that your loved one has FTD and it is a sure fact that he is going to die because of it?
For many years I was captivated by the thought : he will die. I did everything I could to find ways to avoid that reality until the moment I realised that I, myself, was hardly living my life. I was not enjoying myself, I was always "taking care of", always busy with what needed to be done next. I felt completely disempowered, stressed in my body and I felt tired all the time.
In realising that reality, change presented itself. I discovered that it was enough just to be present, connected to myself and my body in order to make contact with my beloved Henk. Paying him a visit in the home was no longer a difficult task, I more often left the care home in a joyful state of mind. I felt more connected to him and through that sense of connection it was easier to deal with the situation.
One day when visiting Henk in the home I was so tired that all I wanted to do was sleep. I stopped thinking, lay down on the bed next to him and fell asleep. When I woke up I felt full of joy and I wondered how that was possible.
Due to his specific type of dementia Henk could not communicate with words or body language. Desperate to be in touch, I began to communicate through sound. I made sounds as they came to me in the moment. To my great surprise he looked at me as if I was telling him a story he could understand, while when using words he would look away. I was both stunned and overwhelmed with joy at the same time. All I had to do was to be.
After Henk's death I started to reflect on our demanding journey, one full of confrontation. I learned so much and the learning still continues. Early in 2012 I started my training to become a coach in the Heart Intelligence method. I am one of the 200 students from all parts of the world who were trained by Christian Pankhurst.
In the summer of 2013, I finished my training and got certified. The training method really matches the new branch of my existing company "Annalin, culture&innovation". I call it "Heart for dementia". With this branch I want to support you as a family caregiver and help you stay connected to your loved one, in spite of all the change and discomfort that dementia brings.