My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 15 years ago. Sadly a minority of these patients go on to develop dementia and my mother is one such person. One of the many problems we experienced as a family was in realizing that dementia had actually set in. Since my mother had always been a strong, intelligent, highly opinionated and independent lady we never suspected that she was making bad choices that would later come back to haunt her. Looking back now it is clear to see that her decision making abilities were compromised way before there was any mention of dementia from her doctors.
As far as I understand , and I am not an expert by any means, there are different types of dementia. In my mothers case she primarily seems to have an altered sense of reality. She believes things that are simply not true, for example that my sister is a drug addict. It often seems to me that all of the fears she had for us while we were growing up she now believes have come to pass. Hence the belief that we are involved in drugs, associating with bad people, doing badly financially and generally up to no good. I remember one very sad consultation with a doctor, tears streaming down her face as she told him that all her children had turned out badly.
My mother is now in residential care where she is really well looked after. She is rarely cheerful but she knows everybody in the family and basically has not lost her long term memory. She can speak well about the past. With day to day situations she finds it difficult to articulate her meaning. Conversation can be problematic as she has difficulty understanding simple concepts. She is confused and upset quite a bit. She believes the staff take her belongings and she is in a permanent state of suspicion. But then there are moments of lucidity. A couple of months ago she spoke about the years following my fathers death. She explained how the first year after his death was difficult but that she had expected things to improve from then on. She found however that the second year was worse than the first because her expectation of feeling better wasn’t realized so celebrations such as birthdays, Easter etc were more painful as time went by. Its such a bizarre disease that a person cannot cope with a simple task such as arranging a hair appointment but can speak eloquently on an abstract concept like failed expectations.
I feel very sorry that at the end of her life when she could be surrounded by a large family and network of friends she is a sad ,disappointed and suspicious person. Dementia has stolen her happiness, few people deserve this.