Madeleine Matzer tells a hopeful story about dementia
Connected, without words
And lock the door to his room at night? I ask.
Better if you don’t. Your father does not know the difference between the bathroom door and the bedroom door. Too stressful for him.
The nurse had found him in the morning in his armchair again. The woman with the long braid, who lived a few rooms down the hall, was sleeping in his bed.
My father, who had dementia, lived in a nursing home for about two years until his death. That period was painful and sad. But he did not lose his sense of humor, and he could move me to the core unexpectedly. As when he held the hand of the most vulnerable resident. The nurse helped him with shelling beans. Unreadable letters scribbled in his agenda.
I recently watched the online reading of Je kunt me gerust een geheim vertellen by theater maker Madeleine Matzer. It is an early version of a piece that will be made into a performance in January. Madeleine Matzer read the text herself.
Her words touched me. I felt retroactively the support and recognition that I missed at the time.
The source of inspiration for the piece was Madeleine's personal quest when she was forced to learn how to deal with her mother who had dementia. She describes how she had to keep reinventing the wheel. Sent from one place to another. Becoming entangled in a Gordian knot of indications, advice and referrals.
What are you doing here?
And then there are the questions. So many questions. How do you deal with someone who has dementia? Nobody teaches you that. When do you decide that it is no longer possible? That the door must always be locked from here on?
What goes on in the head of a person with dementia? What if your parent no longer recognizes you? (What are you doing here?).
A special moment: eventually Madeleine manages to truly make contact with her mother. Through their eyes, through physical touch. Mother seems to become aware that her daughter can be trusted, even though she doesn't recognize who her daughter is. They are connected, without the use of words.
I think about the eye contact I had with my father. And hope he also felt moments of closeness with me.
Dementia is becoming increasingly common. It is the fastest growing cause of death in the Netherlands. On the Alzheimer Nederland website, I read that since 1950, the number of people with dementia has increased fivefold – from 50,000 in 1950 to 280,000 now. And this number will double to more than half a million in the next 25 years.
Madeleine Matzer brings light to this difficult subject and makes it open to discussion. Dementia is not all doom and gloom; you can also approach the disease from the perspective of a valuable and loving adventure.
Dementia causes loss, but it also reveals what was hidden, she reads. A hopeful, positive message. Thank you, Madeleine.
I think back on my father. Like Madeleine, I would have loved to see this performance when he was alive. And not have been irritated by a woman with a long braid who stole his bed.
Matzer Theaterproducties - Je kunt me gerust een geheim vertellen
Playwright and direction: Madeleine Matzer
Performer: Juul Friday. Music: Helge Slikker
Tuesday and Wednesday, February 23-24, 2021
Between February and May, in cooperation with Proeftuin Eindhoven, the production will also appear outside of theaters, in venues such as residential care institutions, welfare organizations, hospitals and schools.
After each performance, there is a discussion in which the audience, organization members, and theater makers can share experiences, insights and information with each other.
A booklet will also be published with the theater text, as well as information about dementia tips & tools, et cetera.
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