When we were young most of us had a youthful agenda and even when family or relatives showed signs of deterioration in health and age, compassionately but with sadness, we had a reluctant acceptance to the aging process.
Our Mum’s or Dad’s did the caring for the young and for the older generations. General knowledge and primitive progress of medical science did their best to make our loved ones comfortable but there was always reluctant inevitable sadness and loss. A hard lesson in early in life, out of our control.
Dementia has introduced itself to me time and time again over my life but never so painfully as it hit so hard, so up close and personal over recent years. I have lost many a loved one to illness who have departed quite instantly. However, losing a loved one to illness where Dementia also played a role in their health, took them away from me over a prolonged period of time and well before the full impact of their illness itself.
As a daughter, sibling, relative, partner and carer – the impact of loss of a loved one is grief. Yet, the impact of Dementia to me has been of an immense sense of a different loss, one of ‘removal and non-existence’ from the memories of my loved one’s lives. A feeling of ‘detachment and no belonging’.
In 1993, my Father was diagnosed with Senile Dementia. The stress of losing his second wife and fear of loneliness brought on this dreaded disease. Shortly after, Dad no longer remembered he had a daughter. We lost Dad, age 85 in 2005. My Step father had passed away in 1988, and then in the late 1990’s I recognised Alzheimer’s – Dementia slowly creeping in with my Mum. 2009 – 2010 the Dementia was impacting Mum’s memory and she wasn’t looking after her own Health as well as she proclaimed.
February 2011, at the age of 86, Mum had a massive stroke causing brain damage and with that came the onslaught of another form of Dementia – ‘Vascular Dementia’. Neurologists believed she wouldn’t live longer than a couple of weeks, but she did. Mum lived for almost 3 years more, but she had no idea who I was, nor her Children, Grandchildren, Husbands or Friends. We lost Mum, age 88 in April, 2013. Late 2011, a sibling was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and Parkinson’s, plus it brought on a form of ‘Young Dementia’. My siblings dementia reduced him to a happy child like minded person with no recollection of who was his wife, children or family, even when we sat in front of him. Two months ago he passed away, age 58.
How many different types of Dementia have you met?
There are many types of Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease – Senile Dementia, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Disease, Fronto Temporal Lobar Degeneration, Alcohol related Dementia, Motor Neurone Disease related – Young Dementia, Down syndrome & Alzheimer’s disease, HIV associated Dementia and probably a few more.
What is Dementia?
The word Dementia does not describe ‘a ‘ Dementia. Think of the word Dementia like the word Vitamin. There are many different types of Vitamins and so, there are many different types of Dementia. Dementia is a Neurological condition. Plus, many illnesses produce symptoms similar to Dementia. Today, medical science is working to identify Dementia signs early and opportunity to control the impact of Dementia if caught early enough.
Dementia is a chronic disease, a persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury. It’s not part of the ‘aging process’. The word ‘Dementia’ describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Dementia affects thinking processes, behavior, personality, frequent or progressive memory loss, ability to do everyday tasks. It interferes with your normal social and working life.
Generally, Dementia is seen creeping into the lives of older persons after the age of 65. However, that’s not always the case. It can happen when you are in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Caring for Dementia
Caring for a person, a loved one with Dementia is very challenging. Communications with a Dementia sufferer will be difficult and stressful, but you can learn as you experience day by day. The Carer must stay positive in mind, body movement and communication. Dementia sufferers interact better when life in general is simplified and uncluttered, supported by reassurance.
Impact of Dementia on a Carer
It should not be overlooked, that trained professionals of Dementia patients in the Aged Care Industry, do take home a personal impact of their experience caring for a person with Dementia, day after day.
Harder to deal with though, is the impact of a Family member taking on the Carer role of another Family member. You are not a stranger to the patient nor to their preferred lifestyle. You experience conflict in your role between that of your place in the family and that of a Carer. The impact, in this scenario, as an untrained person and a relative is very real and can be very destructive to you as the Carer.
Caring for a loved one with Dementia, plus other illnesses is emotionally devastating and debilitating. New to Dementia, you will be left questioning your own sanity and judgment. Familiar to Dementia, you will be continually questioning what else can be done while you see before your own eyes human devastation? Moving beyond the Dementia experience, the mental and physical stress and anguish of the experience could leave you no longer capable of working or coping with your day to day life, due to the immenseness of ‘adult stress’ already experienced. The stress can induce your immune system to crash resulting in multiple chronic diseases setting in and as well, a high risk of Dementia ahead.
Larene has contributed a series on Dementia, please watch as there will be more articles to come on this subject.