Thinking about Dementia

Dementia is an unpleasant word. Maybe that is because its Latin origin, "dement," means, "out of one's mind."

It's important to remember that our loved one who has dementia is not suffering from a mental illness stemming from emotional trauma and abuse, but only from memory loss.

No one would want to be categorized or diagnosed as having dementia. The Google definition is: "a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning."

What could be more frightening than the realization that one is heading into a territory where they will not really be themselves anymore? They won't be able to think right, and thinking clearly seems essential to maintaining one's identity. On the other hand, we were ourselves in the womb and we could not think clearly as infants and young children either.

If we put ourselves in the place of someone who cannot recall simple things, yet desires to communicate and to remember those things, we can identify with their daily frustration. Eventually, they may give up trying, and they may see that you have given up on them, too. But we should not give up on them. We should never speak of our loved one in their hearing as though they are not present. They are!

By being patient and not making a big deal of it when they cannot communicate normally, they will feel less incapable. We can say things like, One thing I've always admired about you is your ability to…

  1. look at things in a positive way.
  2. not worry about things.
  3. accept life as it happens.

Does one of those fit the personality and history of your loved one?

If #1 does, you could follow by saying, Let's think positive today. I'm thinking positive about you because [ you look really well today ] [ your nurse told me she enjoys helping you so much ] or [ …(fill in the blank!)… ].

If #2 seems right, follow that by saying, Why worry? It always makes us feel worse! A million of the things we worry about are not worth worrying about.

If #3 is on the button, try saying next, You've always been an inspiration to me, and I try to imitate you in accepting whatever comes. We both know that "underneath are the everlasting arms." God is in control and he loves us.

Getting older and memory

First in a series on Dementia

Dementia is a condition of some elderly people. The older an elderly person becomes, the more likely it is that they can develop dementia.

Normally, "elderly" is defined as "over 65." It is past "middle age."

Various diseases of the nervous system and their symptoms may be involved in dementia. It is common that more than one disease process will be involved, and include both neurodegenerative and vascular diseases.

What are the neurogenerative diseases? They include Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis." We will look at each of these in this blog series.

What are vascular diseases? They include stroke, "peripheral artery disease, (PAD)," blood clots, and other conditions relating to blood flow and the vascular (blood vessels) system.

As we think about dementia, let's always keep a positive outlook. Perhaps this series will help you think of ways to prevent it in your own life, or if a family member or loved one suffers from it, you will learn to understand them better.