Dementia – Part 3

Coming back to an earlier question of what is dementia, it is a loss of cognitive ability and function, it is a deterioration for an earlier presentation and in the early stages the individual may not know.

It is likely to be a huge problem for the state going forward and there are huge sums of money being spent on research and how to make the management of the disease easier as the costs on the state of dementia are enormous.  There is the cost of care of the person with dementia, but there is also the loss of income of the carer to the state, as sometimes people with high skill sets will give up work to care for a loved on with dementia.

I’ve been told by clients with dementia that in the early stages it is like having a brain full of fog, that somehow they know the answer is there, but just cannot quite get to it.  They know that they don’t know and recognise their loss.  So they are angry and very upset.  Within a family, even a supportive family, they feel alone, as only they have it.  It is also very, very frightening, as most people have heard horror stories about someone with dementia and they don’t want to become that “them”.

What I see, in very simple terms, is two outcomes, either with dementia the person becomes “the essence” of themselves or they change completely and become an entirely different person.

When they become the essence of themselves, it is as though any social etiquette that they retained to hold back their personality is lost and they remain exactly as they were, just more so.  If they were always a sweetie, they are sweeter than ever and if they were always critical or negative, their criticism is magnified.

The change is the hard one for families to cope with, as they really do lose the person that they knew and grieve the loss before that person has passed away.  It is especially hard when this change is accompanied by bizarre behaviour that is unlike what they did before.  The bizarre behaviour is commonly aggression, but can include neurosis or hyper sexuality.  I’ve had lots of stories of meek and mild individuals having shocking language that their families never knew that they knew!

So I still don’t know what it is like to have dementia or to hands on care for someone with dementia, but I’ve supported individuals and families that do.  It is a horrible disease and heartbreaking to see what it does to individuals and their families. And with the work that I do, I will continue to have enormous admiration for those that have the condition and deal with it with enormous grace and for the families who provide unflinching support for a loved one in heart wrenching circumstances.