One of my best friends, David, a bachelor who lived in Vancouver, had dementia, a disease which progressively became rapidly worse in his case. Maybe, it was Alzheimer’s Disease, a form of dementia…not sure actually.
This is what happened before he died eventually of pancreatic cancer. He began slowly to experience loss of memory. In fact, David, my close friend of many years, became really frustrated, even quite angry, with himself as, at first, he couldn’t remember some of yesterday’s conversation with me and then, even more annoyingly for him, he began to forget the actual words he was trying to enunciate. And, he couldn’t understand why he became so angry in his communications with me and, increasingly, with others around him!
It soon seemed that his reasoning and judgement about what he said and about what was happening around him began to deteriorate. He gently pushed my frail, 80-year-old Mother-in-Law into a wall in the living room when he thought she wasn’t behaving correctly as he viewed it. His moods and behaviour were becoming more extreme. He began to experience difficulties with planning ahead for the next day and seemed to give up preparing meals at his own home and for other daily activities.
Then, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; and, he, sadly, died two months later.
So, beyond recognizing and coping with the typical consequences of dementia which were observable daily in my friend, David, it’s also worth being aware that the prevalence of dementia has more than doubled every five years among seniors in Canada (from less than 1% in those aged 65 to 69 to about 25% in those aged 85 and older). By the way, the dictionary defines dementia as a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease, or injury, and marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning.
Dementia remains today without a cure and is as prevalent among those 80 years old and older as is heart failure (a chronic condition that develops after the heart becomes damaged or weakened) and is more prevalent than stroke. The number of people expected to increase with dementia is expected soon to rise to 1.25million (the population of Canada is almost 37million) and the expected increase in those 65+ with Alzheimer’s Disease living at home is going to rise from 55% to 65% in the next five years. (1)
As that famous British philosopher, John Locke, suggested: ”The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” I might add also that understanding may well assist us also to respond to the lack of understanding of others, such as of my friend, David—in this case about his dementia.
And, that’s important to understand, I believe, for all of us who will have a friend with dementia like David….and for you?