Caregiving in the age of the long decline

January 17, 2014

There is almost nothing happy that can be written about dementia. We like to think that maybe somewhere there’s a little old lady or an old gent happily wandering the long-distant corridors of memory, reliving past lives and loves in their mind and smiling to themselves as their body slowly decays around them.

The truth is rarely so genteel, as  this heartbreaking article describes.

Dementia is equally cruel on those who suffer from it and those who must watch from the sidelines. My grandfather had dementia for much of my adult life. I wasn’t all that aware of it until his last few years when the demands of his illness became almost unbearable for my grandmother. He was always a little quirky but as children and young adults, we just put it down to Pa being Pa.

I think it really hit home the Christmas when Pa unwrapped a present that was given to him, smiled and nodded at the gift, then carefully rewrapped it, only to repeat the procedure about ten minutes later. We all laughed while our hearts quietly wept.

Finally, when it all got too much for Nan, Pa went into respite care. It severed the one thread – Nan – that had tied him so tenuously to reality, and he swiftly declined, eventually to be claimed, like so many people with dementia, by pneumonia.

I wish there was a better, easier way for patients with dementia and their families, but I have no idea what that might be.

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