Dealing with Death and Dementia

Leah Health Guide
  • My blog voice has been silent for the past two weeks due to emergencies and tragedy within my family.  I will write at a later date about dealing with my granddaughter's newly diagnosed anorexia nervosa.  Within this sharepost, I want to share with you what it has been like to lose a brother and the effect my dementia had on dealing with that loss.


    There were six children born to my parents.  All of us lived...until May 26th , the day my brother, Glenn, succumbed to injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident two days earlier.  Just reading this, you-the reader-have no idea of the breadth of the sorrow we, his siblings, felt.  We are not like most families.  All six of us are best friends. Truly.  We love one another so deeply and enjoy one another's company so fully-and it has been that way our entire adult lives.  We go fishing and crabbing together.  We go to lunch at the "Tire Place" cards together...cut one another's lawns...have morning coffee together at my cottage...  We just enjoy one another's company.  Rationally, I knew that one of us would have to "go" first...but I figured it would be my eldest brother or myself.  But, one young man in a hurry, failing to yield right-of-way, in one moment, with one careless act brought our family to our knees...

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    I got through the five days before we had to go to the funeral home...I don't know how or what I did...I can only remember bits and pieces.  I stayed with my younger brother during those days, trying to give him company as his loss was not only that of a brother, but of a best friend with whom he spent hours every day of every week, all year through...


    My dementia really kicked in at the funeral home.  Of course, there were copious amounts of people.  And, of course, just grief alone would alter one's ability to remember... But, having grief added to my dementia made things much worse.


    Because I look and sound pretty normal, it is hard for people who meet me briefly to realize something is wrong.  I must say, though, that I felt pretty lost at the funeral home.  In the sea of faces, there were the core people I know, who I see frequently.  And, there were a few from the distant past that I recognized.  Unfortunately, everyone else was a stranger-no matter how or when I may have known them in the past.  That's the really uncomfortable part for me, as I hate to hurt anyone's feelings...but I just don't feel like explaining my dementia over and over...  People would smile and nod and look like they were expecting more from me...but I knew not what to say.  How can I reminisce when I have no memory? 


    One man in particular stands out. During the first visitation time at the funeral home, this bald-headed gentleman came up to me, said my name and a few other things. Uncomfortably,  I finally had to ask, "Do I know you?"  He answered, "Yes, my name is Ronnie.  I own Glenn's old house.  I was at the hospital with you..."  And then he told me we had been together at my brother's home during the past week, that we had talked, and I had eaten dinners with him...  My dementia and my grief had caused me to lose that memory...


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    There are so many other examples...  I do remember seeing so many people acknowledge me as though I was a personal friend (at some time or other), but I had no recognition of them.  I tried to cover up my memory lapse by just smiling and thanking them for coming...the typical thing people say at funerals...  Most of the time, I just felt confused about who everyone was...not knowing which ones I should know and which ones I didn't.  It was very embarrassing to me.  What you, the reader, may not understand is that I know I don't know and that's disconcerting to me.  I suppose this may change as my dementia worsens, at which point I may not know and may not care... 


    Another point about this period of grief and dementia:  I think my medication helped get me through this period better than if I had not been taking it.  The anti-depressant I take helped to take the edge off, allowing me to function better.  I did have my momentary times of crying, but they were shorter than what they probably would have been had I not been on the medication. And though I felt like just screaming in soulful pain, I was able to conduct myself in a more respectable manner.


    Something good has come out of this tragedy.  My brother's eldest son, Benny, learned that I have great difficulty remembering to take my meds and insulin shots and to eat during the day.  So, every day at nine a.m. and noon, Benny calls me and says, "Hi, Aunt Leah.  This is Benny.  Have you taken your medicine and shot?  Have you eaten?"  He has programmed my number into his phone.


    My brother, Glenn,  has brought his family closer than ever to my own... I'm sure he is resting happily in Heaven knowing that his life on Earth was not in vain... that so much good has come from it.  He was small in stature but was a giant of a man...


    Rest in peace, my dear brother.  We miss you every day...  And, YOU, I will never forget.


    God's blessings to all my readers,


Published On: June 06, 2008