The cruelty of dementia

Mom taking a note — “Why does my 51 year old son still dress like he’s 14?”

Moving through Stage 5

Mom was diagnosed with dementia a couple of years ago. There are 7 stages of dementia according to the medical taxonomy:

Retirement communities don’t really understand the concept of vegetarian so I usually enjoy a dinner salad and a toasted cheese sandwich

And yet, so positive

So many things don’t make sense to Mom but for now she fills in the details with the most positive interpretations: her parents are alive, her husband is alive, she has been traveling, she still goes to church, and the people in her apartment helping her are “an old friend from overseas” or a “summer missionary” instead of a random stranger.

Despite looking like a hostage in this photo Mom loved having dinner at my sister’s and loved that my friend Neel visited from Austin

Quality of life?

I read Being Mortal a couple of years ago, and a key to understanding aged care is understanding what ‘quality of life’ means for each person.

The first and last day

When I first arrived, my brother had just visited, and Mom was a little confused about my arrival. Before we went down for dinner, she asked, “How will Bryan know where to find us?” Since my parents called me my brother’s name by accident about 10% of the time, a little confusion between my brother and I is no big thing. I reassured her that I was Bryan (I didn’t even have to put on a fake Aussie accent) and we went down to dinner.

A note likely for my brother, who had visited a few days earlier

My sister is the hero of this story

While I drop in for two weeks one or twice a year, my sister bears the weight of the vigilance of care every day. Donna has set up a great system involving several different organisations to help Mom out in a number of ways:

  • making sure she gets her medication every morning and night
  • making sure she gets three meals a day
  • making sure she gets a shower and clean clothes
  • physical therapy to try and minimise the decline in her strength
  • mental exercises delivered by a speech therapist



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