Have you ever been with anybody suffering from Dementia or any kind of memory loss? Have you felt miserable and helpless seeing their condition? It is normal if you did because everyone goes through a set of emotions when they come across a dementia patient. But dementia is not always something that cannot be handled, it can also be embraced. All that we need to do is open the compassion in us to a whole new level and understand our loved one and what they are going through.
I’ve had personal experiences with a relative of mine who was a dementia patient. The moments that I’ve spent with her showed me that this stage of life is something that can be embraced. Though I often felt sorry for her when she could not do things in order, I started looking at her as a baby. She was now in her same old infant stage that she had passed decades back. The innocence in her now sprouted out that it attracted all of the love in all of us and other people around her. She became the infant of our house. Once we started accepting her innocence and disabilities, we felt more attached to her and understood it was the best time to pour out all our love for her.
What exactly is dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease as such; instead, it is a cluster of conditions that are characterised by the impairment of at least two brain functions, like judgement and memory loss. Although it mainly affects senior citizens, it cannot be seen as a part of ageing. Talking about how many people are affected by dementia worldwide, there are around 50 million people, and approximately 10 million people affected every year.
What causes dementia?
It is the damage that is caused to the brain cells that cause dementia. This damage gradually interferes with the ability and capacity of the brain cells to communicate with each other. This then affects the feelings and behaviour of a person. A person becomes incapable of function depending on which region of the brain is damaged.
What are the most prominent symptoms of dementia?
· Memory loss
· Difficulty in problem-solving and planning
· Difficulty to do familiar tasks
· Forgetting about time and space
· Inability to understand visual information like reading, differentiating between colours, etc.
· Speaking or writing problems
· Misplacing things
· Inability to make decisions
· Social withdrawal
· Mood swings and personality changes
What are the different types of dementia?
There are five types of dementia among which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. The other types are
· Lewy body dementia
· Frontotemporal dementia
· Vascular disorders
· Mixed dementia
Can dementia be cured?
Dementia cannot be completely cured but the right treatment can help cure the reversible symptoms. Rehabilitation therapies and proper medications help a lot.
Dementia may make things harder for its victims and those around them but, all that we have to remember is that though it is not a part of aging, it is a part of life and growth that may happen to anybody including us. Thinking from the patient’s mindset, have you ever thought how hard it might be for them to perform their actions and lead a normal life like before? It is truly sympathetic but it is not sympathy that our dear ones need, it is empathy. Never think of taking care of them as a burden. They looked after you during your infancy when you knew nothing and now it is your turn to return it. Be happy to do so.
A story comes into my mind when I think of dementia. An aged father and his son were sitting on a bench in their garden when a sparrow sat aside the father. He asked the son what it was and the son replied that it was a sparrow. The father repeated the question three more times and by the third time the son shouted at his father for asking the same question repeatedly. The father’s face drooped down and he went inside. It was later on that day that the son came across his father’s old journal. A specific page left him in tears. The page narrated an incident that happened during the son’s childhood when both the father and son were sitting on a bench in their garden.
On seeing a sparrow the son asked his father what it was. He was given the answer that it was a sparrow. This repeated several times but the father was patient enough with the son to tell him it was a sparrow. Each time the son repeated the question he was not just answered by his father but was also kissed on his forehead. On reading this the son realised he too had gone through a stage that his father was currently facing. It was the patience that his father had showed that day that helped train his mind to identify a sparrow and it was the same thing that his father needed now. The only difference was that he was then a child and now his father is aged. The story says that the son ran to his father, hugged him, and apologized for his reaction.
Let’s look at our parents with love. Forgetfulness is not their fault. They’ve toiled all of their lives for us and now let’s do our part. You were once their baby and now, they are yours. They may mess up things and not even realise what they do. It is we who have to stay calm and guide them with patience, love, and kindness. They need us and so do we.