Alzheimer's and Appearances

Leah Health Guide
  • It’s time to talk about appearance…the way one often looks when one has dementia…you know, that distant stare…the smile…


    I have it, I’m sure.  My aunt, who is much farther along than me has it for sure.  She is the real impetus behind this particular blog.  I noticed it at a party being given in honor of her husband, my uncle.  While everyone was gathered around, extolling Uncle Jack’s virtues and recalling events from the past, my sweet aunt sat next to him.  Her countenance never once changed.  She smiled the whole time, but not with that “knowing” smile which changes from time to time, getting larger and smaller according to what she was hearing. That “Mona Lisa” smile... constant, one style smile…  Some may say that it makes her appear to be “simple”, stupid,  even crazy…whatever derogatory term society uses.  And, I suppose I might have felt the same way before I, too, developed dementia. (Mine is vascular in nature as opposed to hers, which I suspect may be age related.)  Having known Aunt Frieda all my life, I know that she once had a mind that was, as they say, smart (or sharp…I don’t remember which word is used appropriately in this case) as a whip.  This appears to no longer be the case.  I use the words NO LONGER APPEARS because one does not know the extent of her “internal” mind and what is behind her smile…

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    Let me explain my theory, based upon my own knowledge of myself and what is going on inside me.  I, too, can sit “mindlessly” smiling.  But believe me when I say that my mind is doing anything but sitting still!  Inside my mind, I am doing what I call “day dreaming”.  I have entire conversations with people (I’m not “crazy” enough to honestly believe these conversations are real, though).  I take trips to the past, reliving events I can remember and making up what I don’t.  I think.  I solve problems.  I compose entire letters.  I make plans (which I don’t remember later.)  My mind whirs.  It is not quiet.  And I am not unhappy.  I’m in a good place, a comfortable place.  And, I must admit, sometimes when my husband or someone else interrupts these moments ( minutes…however long), I get downright upset…sometimes frustrated, because I WANT to be back in that place of racing-mind solitude.  It’s a happy place for me…which is why the smile… And, while those of us with dementia may not be able to solve problems on the outside and our IQ appears to have diminished a great deal, I wonder if I am just being delusional when I say that I believe the IQ is still there, only it’s more internal now, unable to get out…   Does THAT make sense to you?


    And so, Aunt Frieda, this blog is dedicated to you…and to me…and to the millions (I’m not sure the number) of others who live with dementia… Hopefully, I have given our caregivers a little insight into what is behind that “vacant smile” they see on our faces…  May God bless us all!

Published On: July 02, 2012