Updated: Jan 5, 2019
I've learned that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about dementia, and I’d like to take some time over the next several weeks to address a few of the big ones. I’ve heard all of these statements at one time or another, so I feel drawn to share my perspective. Stay tuned for my take on some of the most common myths out there.
I find it hard to believe that my mom ever completely let go of the most important people in her life. I truly feel that in her core she knew when she was with loved ones, even right up until the end. This was particularly true whenever her husband was nearby. My dad faithfully visited my mom in the nursing home for all the years that she was there. When my dad would lean in to kiss her or hold her hand, she knew who he was and that he loved her, regardless of whether she could tell you his name that day.
All of this is not to say that the forgetfulness wasn’t challenging for us family members. It broke my heart to look right into her eyes and have her not know who I was. And some days it bothered me more than others. What helped me most during those bouts of confusion was focusing on making her feel calm, cared for, and comforted. I made a point of reminding myself that the forgetfulness was the disease, and not her. Viewing my mom as separate from her dementia really helped keep me grounded, and it gave me patience and softened my responses during the most trying moments.
Your loved one can likely sense the bond that the two of you possess, and they may appreciate your presence more than they’re intellectually able to share. If you find yourself getting upset with your loved one because they’ve forgotten something for the 100th time or because they can’t recall your name when you walk in the room, pause to take in a few breaths before responding. Then remind yourself that the symptoms of this disease do not define your relationship with your loved one. Some days they just need a kind ear to listen, and other days they may need a hand to hold or a gentle reminder that everything’s okay. They may not know who you are, but if your time together helps bring even a little peace to their day, then your visit will be worthwhile.