The gift of listening
The moment the Rev David Van Akker stepped into Sylvia’s yard, he became the gardener. As he pruned the rose bushes, he chatted to
Sylvia, he even reminded her to take her medication. The reverend-cum-gardener, then offered to cook her dinner, she accepted.
Sylvia had dementia, and because of her condition always thought David was someone else.
As a Wesley Mission chaplain , David often gets to know people with dementia and when required, plays roles assigned to him, be it a gardener, a grandson or a long lost friend.
‘That’s the doorway they offer you,’ he said. ‘If you try to rationalise with them, they become hostile and won’t be open to you.’
‘My role is to provide opportunities for people to talk and tell their story and to help them reflect on it if they are ready,’ he said.
For David, the role of listener is a natural one and carries through his life. It’s a way of showing people they are valued for who they are.
‘I have the chance to come in and give people an opportunity just to talk and work through the changes in their lives,’ he said. ‘Ultimately, it’s about respecting people and honouring them.’
‘It feels like the right thing to do. I’m sure if Jesus was talking with someone with dementia he would love and engaged.
Jesus had an amazing sense of compassion and care for all in the community, irrespective of who they were. He spent his short ministry reaching out to those others would not … because every life matters.
‘It’s important for me to demonstrate this as it sends a message to everyone else. If I was to disregard someone with dementia, it would send a message to everybody that people are only of value if they are lucid or intelligent.’
David’s heart is just one example of how Wesley Mission continues the work of Jesus Christ. Please donate this Easter, and celebrate the life of Jesus, and the reason he lived ... because every life matters.
Aged care enters a new era
When Wesley Mission’s new ‘ageing in place’ residence, Wesley Rayward Carlingford, officially opens on 1 March, 2013, David Van Akker will be its chaplain.
The award winning, state-of-the-art ‘ageing in place’ home has 74 rooms including a 14 room dementia specific unit. The dementia care unit for people with dementia who are still mobile has its own secure courtyard that gives those people the space to move around.
In the middle of the courtyard is a car—a 1954 Hillman Minx to be exact.
The car will be one of a number of objects and installations in the courtyard, such as a potting shed, bus stop, a letterbox and a rotary clothes line. These familiar everyday objects will help calm residents and increase their sense of wellbeing.
Find out more about the new Wesley Rayward facility and Wesley Mission’s retirement living services.