Is Dementia Contagious? I Think I’m Losing My Mind.
It’s scary watching those you love slip away mentally. It has been a gradual process. I first noticed my mom “word searching”. She wanted to say something but couldn’t recall a name or any concrete words to anchor her sentence in a context. We tried to guess, but it only upset her more.
She says things out of context with the conversation. We are talking about the meal we’re eating and she interjects with a comment about the local sports team. Not in an “I’m interrupting” way but in a way we realize she has no idea it doesn’t fit.
She loves sports, especially baseball. She used to know the players, their positions, stats, even the pitching rotation. Sports talk was normal. The difference is, she is now a one-woman conversation. What makes sense to her, doesn’t to anyone else. Knowing how to respond is not easy. I feel sad we can’t converse as we used to. My mom used was quite witty.
Sometimes she realizes she doesn’t make sense. She looks down and says, “Never mind.” It makes my heart hurt for her. Other times she gets frustrated with us because we can’t understand what seems so obvious to her.
Occasionally, she will launch into a story that I think is part dream, part something she heard, with an old memory thrown in. I know the story is not real but it is better to listen and say, “Uh, huh.” because it’s real to her and we are living in her reality. Trying to reason with, argue or convince her logically, is an exercise in futility.
There is no logic in dementia. If she tells me Susie was in her room early this morning, I could say, “No, she wasn’t. You don’t have a caregiver named Susie and it is too early for your caregiver.” It works better to say, “Huh, I didn’t see her.” Or “Oh, someone was here?”
Full disclosure: Even though I know this, I don’t always do it. Sometimes at 3 AM I don’t have the energy or presence of mind to say the right thing. Absolute truth–it can be midday and I still goof up. It’s OK. I’m human. I make mistakes. As I tell my parents, “I may not be the most exciting or your favorite caregiver today, but I’m here everyday, doing my best.”
Dementia is a hot topic and no wonder. It is so devastating. Imagine how frightened you would be to realize your mind isn’t working. Alzheimer’s is the most common type, but the vascular dementia my mom has, is the second, most common. Dementia itself is not a disease but a “catch-all” term for disorders affecting the brain with memory loss, language and thinking problems. Whatever the cause, it’s hard on families and caregivers. It’s too much to bear alone as a caregiver. Find support. I find support in my church and family and my parent’s doctor. There are local groups, online groups or even leave your comments or questions here. We can support each other.
Have a good caregiving day.