Monday, April 18, 2011

Dementia - Getting used to a new reality

Today, I am taking a few minutes to capture my thoughts about dementia, and link to a few items that have recently been in the news. 

My mom, sisters and I called it our family's "new reality" when dad was diagnosed as having progressive dementia. It was particularly challenging, emotionally, for us to learn about Dad's diagnosis when he was in the emergency room after suffering a stroke. Our fragile illusion and tenuous hope that he would recover were shattered by the emergency room doctor's frank description of the damage caused by the stroke, as well as the other damage, likely related to diabetes, that the scans had revealed.

Dad was still physically our dad, and still smiled his same smile. I cherished the moments when we had a conversation that echoed of the dad I knew and the relationship we had before the stroke. I also learned to cherish my new relationship with my dad - I touched him more often because he would let me and he needed me to do things for him. I held his hands or stroked his arm, he would let me put lotion on, or I would hold a straw to his mouth so he could drink, or feed him supper with a spoon - none of these things happened before the stroke or the dementia. Dad and I had new conversations and there was a different kinds of openness and sharing on both sides that did not occur prior to the stroke - like the time dad observed that my mom took on too many burdens, that my children were quite competitive, and when he reflected on the strength of our family. "We have a strong family, we are lucky", he said. Dad struggled to communicate at times, and I ached for him.

It is sad to see that Ralph Klein is suffering a form of dementia that robs him of his ability to speak [URL, URL, URL]. I was in grade 9 when Ralph Klein was first elected mayor of Calgary. As a leader, he touched many lives in Alberta, and will be remembered both fondly and not so fondly [URL, URL, URL]. 

Dawna Friesen's blogpost, My Dad and Dementia, also caused me to reflect on the many changes we observed when my dad was placed in long term care after his stroke and diagnosis of dementia.

Finally, today I learned about the Fred Lewicki Memorial Lecture, a series inspired by Sigrid Lewicki and her husband's experiences living with dementia for 9 years. From this article, I also learned that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is expected to double in the next 20 years, which is a New Reality for All of Us, and a call to action for our health and education systems.

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