Sometimes thoughts flutter in like a bird, other times there are flocks. I prefer the one at a time variety… there are so many associated memories to sift through. Mostly, I can make sense of mine – people with Dementia cannot.
Thoughts about this condition were what came gently flying into my mind the other morning Dementia – or Alzheimer’s disease. It is a cruel condition, where families mourn the living.
When I was training as a nurse, I did stints in psychogeriatric wards. Back then, it was called Dementia, usually Senile Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease referred to early onset dementia.
Still whatever it was named, or is named currently, living with it is not easy.
Most times our thoughts are with the person who cares for the ‘sufferer’… and it is no easy task. Simple things need to be explained over and over again. And it is hard to remind someone every few minutes of how to do what you asked them to do.
Have you ever seen the look on the face of someone suffering this debilitating condition when you lose patience with him or her?
It could be fear, or panic, or puzzled hurt.
Let’s imagine it is a mother. You asked her to turn on the dishwasher – ten times.
Ten times, you have told her how to do it.
Then, when you come back from sorting out the washing you find her standing there trying to remember what you told her to do.
She’s in a twilight zone… lost in her mind.
Before you yell at her… think.
Dishwashers were not a part of her life when she was your age.
Remember when you were a child, a very young child.
- Was this puzzled, confused woman the one who day after day, patiently taught you to tie the laces on your school shoes?
- Did she sit night after night telling you the same bedtime story – because it was the one you asked for, over and over again?
- What about toilet-training? You probably do not remember it, but consider, how long that might have taken.
As our lives become faster and busier, it is all too easy to be less patient.
A hurried instruction is not only confusing; it can be frightening to someone who has memory problems.
I read a short story published in a writer’s group publication while in Texas. The writer had memory problems and described a scene. He was walking through a fog and came to a bridge. After crossing the bridge, he looked back. The fog had closed around it and it was no longer there. That is how he described his memory.
What is it like in the mind of those who have dementia or associated memory problems? I can only guess that, as the sign says… Confused, lost, unsure – all the others mentioned – and perhaps frightened should be added to the list.
One of the first things I had to learn as a student nurse in a psychogeriatric ward was to treat the patients with respect. Yes, even when I had to bath the old lady who had soiled herself. That old lady had lived a life and survived a war, had been headmistress of a school, raised a family and now needed care.
If you know someone who is caring for a relative in ‘the twilight zone’ perhaps sending him or her a card, making a phone call. Simply giving some of your time and listening to the caregiver would be a kindness you could do. Being a caregiver can be a lonely position.
Think on this… the caregiver in such a situation is mourning the living. The sufferer might also be mourning the losses. No one with any form of dementia wakes up one morning and has no memory. That is a different condition. No, dementia in all its guises sneaks up, frightening the sufferer.
This is a quote from a wife… it could have been my neighbor, but it was not. Perhaps it is all the wives, or husbands whose ‘other half’ is missing, not dead.
“He was here, sleeping in the same bed, eating at the same table, — a living, breathing presence, if not a fully present one. His mind was not working so well, but the familiar body was fine, and his heart still tried to be what he had been. Until one day, he could not…”
LILLIAN B. RUBIN
And from me, a rose for you whether you are a carer or a sufferer