This is not a medical assessment.
This is not even based on hard, scientific evidence.
These are real-life experiences I’ve had over the past two and a half years while observing the very mysterious condition called dementia. My mother has taught me to love it, her resident neighbors have taught me of its inherent wonder.
Today I had the pleasure of hanging out with Cookie, the mother of a dear friend of mine. Cookie is 81, in fabulous physical health (last year she banged through a bout of breast cancer like nobody’s business) and living independently in a senior housing facility. Her mind travels in and out the past to the present. The interesting thing about dementia is that is seems to be devoid of future. There are no projections. In fact, we think of dementia as being “forgetful”, yet projecting the future is what appears to be least available.
In the beginning stages, at least. As it progresses, the past becomes more obscure and presence alone is where it’s at.
Of course the concern about not being able to project is safety and quality of life. Will Cookie remember to lock her doors? Will she go for a walk and not know where she is? Will she remember that the Holiday sing a-long is at 4:00 today, the one she enjoyed so last year?
How important this is to the individual is questionable, but it’s very important to those of us who have a stronger understanding of left-brain importance in our daily lives. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, tells in great personal detail, why and when we need out left brain to function adequately. Unless, I suppose, it doesn’t.
Does my mother seem happier when she is cajoled into activities that she would not attend on her own? Yes, sometimes. Is she unhappy not doing them? No, she doesn’t seem to be. Other than we do know from an anthropological point of view that socializing is an important component for homo-sapiens, how much intervention is enough? How much becomes interference in one’s personal path?
When we can remember that it’s our own discomfort that compels us to worry and fret and do and over-do, we can take a step back and see this phase and the people in it for what it is. A phase of life. A very misunderstood or UN-understood phase of life that we really have no way of knowing how to best approach.
As with anything that causes emotional charges for you, I suggest addressing your own discomfort, dealing with your own demons, then letting your inner guidance show you the way. You might also rely on a like-minded friend, hire a coach, or keep a journal of your reactions. When you do, you’ll find the way is less stressful, more joyful and far easier than it’s been.
Cookie will need more assistance as time goes on, as will her daughters who are fearful of what lies ahead. If only they could experience the part of dementia that doesn’t project!