A friend of mine is dealing with the beginnings of dementia in one of her parents. My experience with dementia is limited to brief periods of dementia in both of my grandparents. My grandfather’s was fairly constant but it was only shortly before he passed away. Disturbing nonetheless. My grandmother’s seemed to come and go depending on how well her health was. It was still unsettling when she was confused or somewhere else, but at least she always knew who I was. I don’t know much about the medical condition, just that the thought of it puts fear in my heart. I’ve had friends who’ve taken their parents in only to have to deal with their parents, who are not at all themselves, treat my friends’ children horribly. The heartbreak in this aside from the hurting kids, is knowing that hurting children is the last thing the aging grandparents would want to do.
My heart has been heavy with sorry and worry for my friend and her mother, for I love her mother, too. And I’ve been mindful of the challenges and complexity inherent in caring for aging parents. Because every time you see it you know it’s what’s around the corner for you–becoming old and ill and crazy and having your kids perplexed over how best to care for you, most likely when you’re still holding desperately on to the delusion that you’re perfectly fine. My memory has never been particularly sound, so I’ve always been afraid of becoming demented (because when I do, if I’m aware at all of what’s happening to me, that’s what I’m going to call it).
So I was rather startled the other day when a sister working in the temple gently grabbed my arm and said to me, “Don’t ever get dementia.”