The Saddest Times of Dementia

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

This is my
beautiful mother enjoying her grandchildren forty years ago. At the time, she
was younger than I am now and a very loving grandmother. The grandkids thought
she was the best. She let them stand at the sink and wash dishes. She pretended
to let them help her make doughnuts. She played Rummy with them and didn’t
always let them win. She had three more grandchildren after this picture was
taken and loved them all as only grandmothers can. A good love. A “I
believe in you” love. A “you can do anything you set your mind
on” kind of love and support. That’s a grandmother’s job. To spoil a
little. To love a lot. And to think grandbaby hugs are a gift without price.

But now she has
dementia. Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that
affect the brain. One place I looked said that one out of five people 80 and
older have dementia. Then it went on to say that although elderly people suffer
from dementia, it is not a normal process of aging. And yet, normal or not, it
happens. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do things
like getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems
or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become
agitated or see things that are not there. Some of those things have happened
to my mother.

Of all the things
that do happen to a person with dementia, the worst is the agitation and
unhappiness. Not all people who suffer dementia have the uneasy and sometime
angry agitation, but many of them do. My husband’s mother did not. My mother
does. She does so want to “go home.” Back to her childhood home. A
house that is long gone. And then at other times, she simply wants her husband
to show up. He was here just this morning, she’ll say, but he didn’t tell her
where he was going. But a husband is supposed to be with his wife.  Or she saw him in town before she came to the
house here. None of that has happened. Nor are there children in the house, but
sometimes she needs to go home to see about the kids.

All that is sad.
But the saddest thing is how she’s forgotten her family. At least the family
still living. She hasn’t forgotten her parents and sisters who have passed,
most years and years ago. She knows them in photos and doesn’t seem to have a
problem jumping from very old photos to newer ones. The ones she doesn’t know
are her children and grandchildren. Most of the time she knows me. Most of the
time. But sometimes she wants to know where “the other Ann” is. Then
there was the day I looked at a picture of her and her grandchildren taken
three or four years ago and she knew herself but not them. I’d tell her their
names and she’d smile as if remembering a grandkid hug.  But by the time we got to the last person in
the picture, she was asking about the first one again. She does seem to
remember the old pictures a little better. Or maybe baby pictures simply take
her back to a better time and make her happier.

That day with the
memories of her grandchildren buried deep under her dementia and no way to
bring them back was a saddest day. For her and for me. I look out into the
future and think of perhaps someday losing the precious memory of my own children
and their children if my mind fades like mother’s has. A saddest thought and
one there’s no reason to dwell upon. We can’t predict who will suffer from
dementia and who won’t. We can hope for better treatments.

Right now, the
only “treatment” that seems to help Mom is prayer. I appreciate all
my friends who pray for her. My own prayer is that she will have peaceful days
as we take it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time and try to make it
through each of those worst times back to the not as bad times. The times when
she’s almost her old self and seems to remember the kids and their families.
That day we were looking at their pictures, she kept wishing to see them.
Whether she can remember their visits or not, she wants those times. As for me,
I want to treasure the memories I have right now since none of us can know what
tomorrow might bring.

On a happier note,
the e-book version of  Words Spoken True is available for the
low price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook and $2.39 for e-readers on A great chance for you to give that book a try if you
haven’t read it. It’s not free, but pretty cheap. It is a limited time offer so
don’t wait too long to check it out if you’re interested. Also I’m getting ready to
send out a newsletter tomorrow with a new giveaway to celebrate Scent of Lilacs being back in print with
a new cover. Fun happenings. If you don’t get the newsletter, I’ll let you know about the giveaway on Wednesday
– if I don’t forget it’s Wednesday the way I did last week. But I made up for
it on Thursday. Or sign up for the newsletter on my website.

Thanks for
reading. And remember you have three more chances to throw your name in the hat
to perhaps win a copy of Scent of Lilacs.
Leave a comment on this post or on Wednesday’s post or on Jocie’s blog
tomorrow night and get another entry.