Living with Dementia: A Moment of Uncertainty
It's just past midnight, and I've been asleep since 9:30 P.M. I was especially tired tonight, having had two very full days. A few minutes ago, I awoke. Without moving my head, I looked around at my surroundings. Where was I?
I saw two doors and a large dark structure I took to be a chest of some sort. In another area, I saw a window. This is not the cottage, I thought, in a panic. I would have a solid wall next to my bed there. Am I home? I couldn't tell. Images of a room in my Aunt Thelma's came to mind. (I hadn't stayed there in fifty years!) No, I wasn't at her farm.
I began to be a bit frightened. And, with my quirky personality, I (at the same time) thought: This is just like playing "Where is Waldo", except it is "Where in the World is Leah?" game. As funny as that was at the moment, I still felt scared. I didn't know where I was waking up. Still, I didn't move my head. THIS was a challenge, a mental challenge for me. (Again, my quirkiness rears its head!)
For the "normal" person, having a moment like this may appear ... well, normal. For someone like me with dementia, it is quite frightening. I continued to try to remember where it might be that I was staying. I knew my husband was next to me (or I was hoping that is who it was.) No, I am just kidding about that. I KNEW he was next to me. I had just recently poked him gently to stop him from snoring. I tried to think...where was I yesterday? Finally, it came to me that I had gone to the dentist and the endocrinologist...so I must be home in southern Maryland!
If THAT was the case, I thought, then what am I seeing? It took me the longest time to realize that I was looking at my bathroom door, dresser, and hall door...and it then took me a long time to remember what my bedroom looked like. I did (eventually) remember the details of the room...but it took a lot of thinking! That's when I bent over, picked up my laptop (which is never very far from me), and began to type this blog.
I want to give my readers a glimpse into the world of dementia. Unfortunately, words cannot convey the real agony of the moments of despair or fright that I feel. This is like nothing I have ever endured before. My life is totally changed. Since it is a mental thing, no one can really tell what is going on from the outside. I continue to look normal. And, except for not remembering details and recent things, or fighting to follow a recipe, or understanding commercials on TV, or completing a task, I am able to function pretty normally. My decline is slow. Some may be of a normal nature, too. My vascular dementia is not supposed to worsen rapidly.
But, then again, some of the literature I am reading suggests other possibilities. Yesterday, I also did research for the future classes I will be teaching on Strengthening Your Mind. I found a new study that suggests that those people who do exercises to keep their minds sharp-crossword puzzles, chess, etc.-do remain alert longer, but, in their later years, they tend to decline mentally at a much faster rate. At first, this bothered me...until I realized that those of us who remain active and do all we can to exercise our brain have more years of activity and happiness than most. So what if we, at the age of 80 or so, begin to lose it quickly? We will have had many more mentally active years than others who slowly declined mentally much earlier!
So, now it is after 1 A.M., so I'd best be getting back to sleep. I know where I am.