Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dementia Sucks!

Dementia sucks!  Yes, I said dementia, not melanoma!  Surprised I am not talking about melanoma on my melanoma blog?  Well, there are other horrible diseases out there.  Dementia has touched me this week a couple of times. 

When I think about dementia, I think about my great grandma.  She had dementia. I was pretty young when she was alive.  She passed away when I was 19.   She couldn't remember short term memory stuff.  She did better with long term memory, but as it progressed, that even got bad.  I remember going to my grandma's on Christmas Eve, and my great-grandma would be sitting right by the door, waiting for my brother,sister and I to arrive.  She always said the same thing, every year.  First, she would say we were growing like weeds.  Then she would always ask me how my birthday was.  Our birthdays were 3 days apart.  She NEVER forgot to ask me that.  Sometimes she would ask me 10 times, but I always answered her as if it was the first time.  As bad as her dementia got, she never forgot my birthday.  She would call me by my mother's name sometimes, which was interesting, because my Mom used to go to her house when she was younger, with my Aunt.  I didn't mind that.  It meant that she remembered my Mom.  My parents had been divorced years by then.  She always loved my Mom and my Mom always loved her.  She was funny, and sweet.  I truly miss her.  I had a special bond with her.  Christmas Eve was never the same after she passed.  I hated going to my grandma's and not seeing her sitting there by the door waiting for us.  I was grateful that at the end of her life, I didn't see her suffer.  Not at first, but after hearing things from family, I was glad that I had the memories of her that I did, and not what I heard about her while she was in the nursing home.  I was devastated when she passed away.  She was the only person in my father's family that I really liked, besides my grandpa. The house was sold years ago, but whenever I drive by, I can still see the window where she sat when we drove up the driveway.  It was my favorite part of Christmas.

I recently went to dinner with my boyfriend's family to celebrate his mom's birthday.  She is 78.  She has dementia.  I haven't seen her in about 8 months.  When we got to the restaurant she looked different. I said hi to her, and she looked away. She didn't recognize me.  She has known me for 10 years.  We don't see her all the time, since we live an hour away, but it was sad.  I didn't get to talk to her like I normally would have, and decided to just be there and not push it.  It was awful to see how fast she is going downhill.  She looks in the mirror sometimes, and doesn't know who she is.  She looks at her own children, and doesn't know who they are.  She forgets that people passed away, and when she is told, she mourns all over again.  I can't imagine what she is going through.  Her daughter, lives with her and cares for her 24/7.  She is AMAZING.  I know it is taking a huge toll on her.  She has virtually no help from anyone else.  They have seen a doctor that specializes in geriatrics, and dementia.  He was great.  Now we have some plans together to help her and hopefully make things a little less stressful for everyone, especially her daughter.

On Thursday, I didn't want to go to work.  I was feeling like staying home and just crying my eyes out.  Sometimes, we just need a good, cleansing cry.  I am glad I did go for a lot of reasons.  It turned out to be a day I needed to be there.  Among other things,  a patient brought her husband in for an office visit that day.  She was talking about how stressful it is to be a caregiver for her husband who has beginning stages of dementia. She is exhausted.  She is angry.  She needed to vent.  I listened to her for quite awhile.  I sympathized with her situation and told her briefly about my experience.  She is seeking help to get them through this, which is so important.  She has her own experience with dementia with her brother and mother.  She said she really hates dementia.  I can relate. She seemed so happy to just vent.  To get it off her chest.  We hugged and she thanked me for listening. I have learned that sometimes all you have to do is listen and let people vent to really help them. 

I know I talk about melanoma a lot, but there are so many other diseases, and things that are not curable and are devastating families and lives all over the world, everyday.  I like to think that someday, we will find a cure for all the horrible things that are out there, like dementia, melanoma, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, the common cold....

Wouldn't that be great?

I always remember my great grandma the most around the holidays.  Her birthday is still always celebrated on December 15th, followed by mine 3 days later.  And every year on Christmas Eve, I can still hear her ask, "How was your birthday?"  I sure do miss her.

                                       My Great-Grandma, Amelia, and I (taken in 1972)


  1. This post really resonates with me. Someone very close to me has dementia and it sucks just as bad as any other disease. I appreciate you talking about this on your blog. It's true that we don't just deal with one disease or problem--life is full of all kinds of problems. I've grown so used to the dementia that I don't really "think" about it all that much anymore, but every so often I'll get really emotional about it and cry. Dementia takes someone you love and changes them into something else. It's hard and can be a huge huge burden on family.

  2. Hugs Katie. It is just awful for all involved. It is a huge burden too.

  3. Katie wrote my thoughts perfectly - I too have been touched and hurt deeply by the dementia family. Thank you for sharing this Melissa it was written so poignantly.