If I had a broken leg or a neck brace, people could easily acknowledge that I have an impairment. I have a seemingly invisible impairment...dementia. Vascular dementia. My major area of impairment is my short-term memory loss and some ... well, maybe...inappropriate behavior or conversation. Even when these areas rear their ugly heads, people just excuse it away...without understanding the impact it really has on my life. Let me give you one example.
I went to the grocery store by myself. Now that my husband is retired, we usually go together. I navigated the store alright and went to the self check-out. I put in my phone number and scanned the items without a problem-until the last item. It was from the vegetable aisle, so I knew it needed to be weighed. First problem: how do I weigh it? I figured the silver platform was a scale...so, I pushed the button for HELP. While I waited, I looked over the computer screen and found the area for fresh produce. I pushed the button and a screen came up with many fruits and vegetables and an alphabet below. I looked at the item on the platform...WHAT was IT? I must have known what it was when I picked it up...why couldn't I remember now? Shortly, a cashier came to help and I laughingly said that now the only help I needed was the name of this thing. "It's GARLIC," she said. Then she laughed and said, "You knew that!" and walked away.
But I didn't KNOW that...THAT was the problem! (I knew it again later-enough to tell what happened to my husband. Then, just now, I had to ask him what it was again. That's what happens when you have dementia. Big holes in your memory.
Second problem at the checkout...I got through the payment part and took my receipt. Happily, I pushed my cart (right past the groceries I had bought which were sitting at the end of the lane) toward the door. In just that short period of time, I had forgotten I'd even scanned them...Suddenly, luckily before I went too far, I looked in my cart and saw it was empty. At first I thought, where'd my groceries go? Then I remembered and turned around to get them-hopefully before anyone saw me!
And so, THIS is what life is like for me...not much fun and very confusing. I want people to understand that we, with dementia, are not freaks and that we are not acting this way on purpose. We are doing the best we can with what we have!
Published On: April 19, 2011