Piecing Together the Puzzle: Communicating with Dementia
Let me tell you what dementia does when you go to the doctor. When he asks how you are doing, you wonder to what he is referring. For instance, this last time I went, I knew I was there for the infection in my toe, which I had been suffering with for months. As a matter of fact, I had surgery over a month ago to remove part of the toe nail and to have the infected area scraped out. Since then, I had been following orders to soak it several times a day (when I could remember) and to take the oral medications (two more different antibiotics). During the office visit, the doctor was going over the chart and asking how this and that was going...when he came to the question: "Any more problems with bleeding?"
For a few moments, I was dumbfounded by that question! Bleeding? What bleeding? After much mental effort, the fog began to lift slowly; I began to remember what had been a most frightening experience only six weeks before. Oh yes, I had experienced heavy rectal bleeding just a short time ago-something that, at the time, had me quite scared-and, yet, the memory of it had vanished completely and was just now being reconstructed within my conscious mind. Important as it was at the time, I was now having to tug at the shreds of memory in order to put them together again, as if putting together a puzzle. Once the shards of memory came to the forefront, I had to put them in chronological order to fully remember. Does that make sense to you?
Having dementia, is just like putting together a puzzle -- only, often, with missing pieces which must be retrieved from under the table, behind the chair -- or from the recesses of my mind.
On another note, my husband and I are going through a great deal of communication difficulty. In addition to the problems my short term memory loss causes, Bill is now undergoing radiation for prostate cancer, which I know must be playing heavily on his mind-as it is on mine. Just this evening, as I prepared dinner, he asked me about the lamp we are to put on the sideboard. "I thought we were putting my mother's lamp here," he said-in what I took to be an accusing manner.
Earlier in the day, his daughter, bless her heart, drove two and a half hours to spend most of the day with us, to help us move or empty boxes. When we got to the boxes with lamps, I had NO memory of where they were to be put, so I told her to put the lamp in question upstairs in the office area. I'm sure Bill is correct in his memory, but, at that moment, I was sooooo tired of telling him that I can't remember things, that I could have screamed. Instead, I shot him one of those "if looks could kill" glares...Well, we got through the moment, but, with all that is happening with him and with my dementia, plus this final move to a new house, it is all just getting to be a bit overwhelming for both of us. I am hoping that, once we settle in and aren't working so hard and Bill's radiation treatments stop (which won't be until February), that my short term memory loss may get somewhat better...
But, then again, I ran out of my Aricept (I think)...or did I? Guess I'll have to check that out... I keep forgetting to do that... But that's another story unto itself!