What would you say if your spouse asked you this question, “Do you think I have dementia?” How would you respond? Would you be truthful? Would you sugar-coat your answer?
My answer was this, “I see some signs of it, Honey, do you?” And he reluctantly agreed with me.
That was our most recent conversation about dementia, but it was not our first. It was the first time he had put the question to me, but we had talked about it in general in the past.
The first faint signs that I noticed occurred about 5 years ago. Even though this is our 20th year of PD, in my research I have seen statistics that say a decline of cognition can occur any time during PD. This article states that 50-80% of PD patients will develop dementia. I even know of a case where dementia was one of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s, which really surprised me.
Each of us is aging, and at times we just can’t find the right word to describe something. In my unprofessional opinion, that is not dementia. The troubling symptoms I noticed in my husband were more about connections. During a television show he did not pick up on inferences. He couldn’t figure out how people were related to each other and to the story. This happened occasionally at first, and then more and more.
In several areas of our lives, I can see a progression from not being able to follow a lengthy explanation of events, to a lack of interest in those events. Finances are now too complicated for him. Following the activities of our grandchildren and our daughters, is also too taxing.
The events in the first paragraph of this blog occurred this week. On that same day, my husband suddenly said, “Remember that guy?” When I replied, “What guy?” He could not find the right words to describe who he was talking about or what he wanted to tell me about him. I had no idea who he was talking about. So, I began asking questions – almost like the game “20 Questions” to try to get some context as to what he was trying to tell me. After about 10 minutes of carefully crafted questions on my part, we figured it out!
When I saw this coming a few years ago, I read several articles about dementia and how to deal with it. Here are a few pointers I remember from my research:
- Don’t ask if they remember something. They don’t.
- Don’t say, “I’ve told you 4 times already!” That only makes them feel bad. Just tell them again – the 5th time.
- Don’t take it personally, as if they aren’t listening. Just repeat.
Here are some suggestions from another article on dementia.
I can see that this frustrates my husband even more than it frustrates me. He wants to appear to be as alert and sharp mentally as ever, but he is not. This does not make him less important, less loved, less respected. My job is to be sure he feels important, loved, and still respected.
Are you seeing signs of dementia with your loved one? I would love to hear how you’re coping with it.
Thanks for reading and commenting. We’re in this together!