Coping with Dementia

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • My friend, Chris, and I had the opportunity to catch up recently over lunch. As we compared notes on our mothers’ battles with dementia, we realized that since they had started displaying signs of their respective diseases, both had pulled off award-winning performances that made other people think that our mothers were in their right minds.

    In Chris’s case, her mom regained all of her mental capacity when Chris took her to the doctor for a check-up. Thus, the diagnosis of dementia was delayed until a later date when another family member took her mother on what happened to be a “regular day” (i.e. when the mother was experiencing and showing the effects of the disease).
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    In my mom’s case, one of her award-winning performance happened last December when my friends, Bob and Anna, came to visit. I took the couple to visit my mom, who had been anticipating their visit all week. We all had dinner together, during which Mom was mentally present. Mom successfully took part in a conversation, paid attention to what was said, and displayed a sense of humor. Mom was so mentally present that Anna was convinced that Mom didn’t belong in the secure unit.

    I started to lean the same way, and told another friend what I had seen over dinner and how optimistic we all were about Mom’s state. My friend, who has had experience with people with dementia, listened quietly and then said she was going to visit Mom the next day. When this friend visited, she found that Mom had collapsed mentally from all of the effort she had expended on being “up” for Bob and Anna’s visit. My friend said that this was not unusual; people with dementia tend to store up their energy for a special day (much like an athlete who tries to peak his or her performance).

    What I learned from these situations is that to understand that to get a good sense of where someone with dementia is mentally, you need to spend several days straight with them. One visit won’t give you the total picture.
Published On: October 10, 2006