Learning from Dementia
When I personally witnessed dementia in a close loved one was with my grandfather but I was too young and ignorant of the situation at the time and my learning of dementia came years later when doing research for work and the articles I write on caregiving. I remember finding it a little amusing that my grandpa said to my dad how he reminded him of his son (him) as if my dad were an old distinguished friend coming to visit, and then my grandma correcting him saying “Eladio, that gentleman IS our son” and then both dad and grandpa having a laugh of the whole thing. Little did I know that he was already on the advanced stages of dementia. A couple of years later he had lost his speech and most of his bodily functions, but the entire family was sure to give him the best health care and a dignified death at home surrounded by those who loved him.
Being a writer of health articles and giving a special section of my day to caregiving research has made me come close to dementia several times a week. I have also had the opportunity of attending seminars dedicated to caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Facing the reality of this disease makes anyone appreciate life and their own healthy mind. I see dementia as a robbery of one’s most precious treasures, our own memories, those mental pictures that we hold close to our hearts. And then beyond that, the loss our own decision making, judgment and the ability to speak. On the later stages the body starts to fade away in what to me is an unfair departure from life.
Learning from dementia has brought a new perspective of life. No matter how rich or successful you get to be in life, we are all headed down the same path, some might take shortcuts and deviations but the destination remains the same. Therefore the importance of appreciating even the smallest detail every day and be thankful for what we have.
What I have come to realize is that we are all surrounded by angels, people dedicating their time to tend for those in need. Caregivers are incredibly armed with tons of patience, selflessness, inner strength and a true love for the person they care for and for what they do.
I have also seen those moments of light in which a patient comes back from the lost land and speak, recognize a face or even sing a special song that brings out their soul. Those unique moments are reminders that they are a human being inside a declining body and mind. People who once left a mark in society and perhaps had the good fortune of having success. Respectful and experienced people that could teach and still have so many lessons to give, even if they cannot speak anymore.
No matter how they lived their life, dementia is an example of how the world moves on and the younger minds take charge. Many stigmas and misjudgments of dementia need to be demolished, ignorance can be beaten by knowledge.