Wednesday 22 June 2022

Dementia: At Home & Abroad

An interesting thought occurred to me recently, as I consider my mother's dementia and how it affects her behavior.

These days it is common for her to make statements that are unsupported by facts.

For instance, she will say that she has been deaf in one ear since birth. The thing is, she has NOT been deaf since birth. She suffered a punctured eardrum as a result of a bobby pin gone awry when she was a young married woman. Her hearing was somewhat reduced as a result, but she became really hard of hearing in that ear only in the past ten years or so. (I am assuming that the information she gave me during my lifetime up until her dementia began are the "real" facts.) I don't try to correct her because it doesn't really matter how she became hard of hearing; it only matters that anyone talking to her knows they must speak loudly and clearly.

A different example of a statement not supported by facts is when she says that she doesn't need her medications because she feels fine. She takes medication for blood pressure, stomach issues, and myoclonic seizures. Of course she feels fine, because the medications are controlling her medical conditions. It is frustrating to discuss this over and over with her, because she cannot follow the logic, but she needs to keep taking these medications to have the best quality of life possible. Additionally, if she were to refuse these medications, and then her symptoms returned, guess who she would call, who would be going to her house (in the middle of the night if the past is any indication), arranging for a trip to outpatients by ambulance, or sitting with her in the waiting room for hours to see a doctor? That makes it extra frustrating for me when she starts talking about not taking her pills anymore.

There are numerous other examples of my mom's dementia making conversations difficult and frustrating. But the thing is, SHE HAS DEMENTIA. She can no longer understand what is fact and what is not. If she feels it's a fact, it is a fact in her mind.

What is the excuse of 30% of the citizens of the United States who still believe, in spite of facts, that the 2020 election was stolen by President Biden? *

* Percentage quoted by David Becker of The Center for Election Innovation & Research, in a CBC interview circa June 21, 2022. The percentage remains unchanged as the facts of January 6, 2021 are laid out by witnesses at the hearings now being televised.


Elephant's Child said...

I firmly believe that dementia is one of the cruelest of illnesses. It is cruel to the person with it and it is just as cruel to those that love and try and support them. Thinking that at least thirty per cent of a country's population suffers from it does my head in. Further.

dinthebeast said...

That's hard about your mom. But at least she has a reasonable excuse for her disability. Those, let's call them what they are, Republicans, are addicted to propaganda. There is a whole mulitibillion dollar effort in place to feed them lies and distract them away from truth that has been going on ever since Ronald Reagan took the fairness doctrine out behind the barn and shot it in its head, which in turn cleared the way for the rise of Roger Ailes and Fox news.
Add to that the corporatization of broadcast journalism, where newsrooms now have to generate their own profits instead of functioning as a public service, and there really isn't anything to counter the right wing propaganda except a few long suffering liberal bloggers, in whose comment section you are likely to find entries signed "Doug in Sugar Pine."
Now here's the thing: nobody is holding a gun to their heads and forcing them to watch Fox, Newsmax, or OAN. Every time they consume propaganda it is a decision they could have made otherwise.
But to accept that today's lie is not true is to accept that yesterday's lie may not have been true either, and on and on until all of the sudden every political opinion they have held in their adult lives becomes suspect, and that's just too hard for them. Too much of their identity is wrapped up in those opinions based upon lies, and the truth becomes an attack on their identity which they feel they have no choice but to fight back against.
Propaganda is evil. Full stop.
OK, now I'll hobble down off of my soapbox and go back to my afternoon reading, after wishing you and your mom all of the best.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Boud said...

I don't think those people really believe it. But they're stuck with it because they simply can't acknowledge they're wrong about other matters of fact. That's a humiliating climb down, rare individuals can make it. They've invested so much in being included in their group, they'd lose all that if they acknowledged they were mistaken.

Mike said...

I know two guys that are republican bigots. They both sustained bad head trauma during their working years. They are both angry about just about anything most of the time.

Anonymous said...

We have a neighbour with dementia and he is quite happy in his own little world and causes no one any bother, except a little to his wife who he has to depend on for care. It will be nothing for him to walk twenty kilometres a day on his own, but his wife has put a tracking app on his phone as she knows one day, he will get lost.

As for the thirty percent, I just hang my head. There is nothing to say about such absurdity.

Susan said...

You never know what they might say next. There are many rabbit holes I chose not to go down with my Dad. As for the 30%, if only they would teach critical thinking in schools. I recently heard, on the CBC I think, that once an idea is entrenched it is almost impossible to replace it regardless of facts.

messymimi said...

Dementia is a cruel taskmaster.

While i believe since there were more votes cast than there are registered voters there was some irregularity somewhere, i am not in the 30%. Small irregularities do not add up to making a major difference.

Susan Kane said...

I am so sorry to hear of your mom. Both parents went quickly, thankfully. Yes, CBC seeks to hold on this education programs.
I am a retired teacher, and know the cbc and its efforts to rewrite education. I know for a fact that this is true. I have stood in front of my class and see the results.

jenny_o said...

Elephant's Child: If only it were dementia causing the 30% to act the way they do.

Doug: Bingo :) You're right. And they don't even get how duped they've been by their leaders, all to get or keep power.

Boud: Yes. And to be fair, many would be completely ostracized if they changed their minds. It would be a hard place to be.

Mike: Well, maybe some of them really do have dementia, then!

Andrew: Smart wife. Let's hope he doesn't lose his phone. My neighbour was telling me about an uncle of her friend, who ended up in New Brunswick (next province over from Nova Scotia) before he was finally put in a care home. It happens too often. My mother is not a wanderer ... yet. But that could change over time.

Susan: That's not good news, is it? We do need more critical thinking, for sure. It's so hard to break the cycle of non-thinking thinking perpetuated in the home, but what worries me even more is that some of this 30% are the teachers tasked with educating those same kids. Not singling out teachers, just saying that the 30% comes from all walks of life including educators who should know better.

Joanne Noragon said...

My brother (when he was alive) and my b-i-l numbered among those brainwashed individuals you mention. I believe it begins with army training, which both had in common. They are taught to follow orders, no questions asked. In this country, the army is the solution to thousands of men and women who see no future after high school. They come home to more brainwashing by the NRA and FOX news. Trump knew exactly how to herd these people along. It's not dementia, it's training.

jenny_o said...

Susan Kane: Sorry; I'm not sure what you mean. Clarify, please?

Red said...

Regular people find it hard to deal with the irrationality of dementia.

River said...

I can see how hard it is for you with your mum declaring she doesn't need her medications because she is feeling "just fine thanks very much", all you can do is repeat, repeat, repeat, that she is fine because of the medications. It's mind numbing, soul crushing and just doesn't stop. Neither of my parents, nor my inlaws had dementia so I hope to not get it either, nor my children.

Marie Smith said...

The thought of dementia has me questioning every memory lapse these days. It is such a cruel illness!

Steve Reed said...

It can be hard to get people to understand the benefits of preventative medication. It's like explaining the necessity of Covid vaccines -- people say, "Well, they don't work, because they don't prevent Covid!" But they DO apparently prevent serious illness, and yet that can be difficult to demonstrate because it's hard to prove a negative.

And that leads right into your point about right-wing propaganda. I second everything Doug in Sugar Pine said above. Those people are simply choosing to believe what they want to believe, molding the world to fit their preconceived notions.

jenny_o said...

Mimi: Certainly, in an election where millions of people vote, human error will mean there are a few irregularities, but -- as you said -- not on a scale to overturn the results. Rational adults should understand that!

Joanne: Yes, army training could have an effect as you described. The military has a strong don't-think-just-obey ethic.

Red: It's frustrating dealing with my mom, but to have the same kind of barriers to discussion with supposedly rational adults? Beyond frustrating.

River: Mind-numbing and soul-crushing is an excellent description. Some days I don't know how to keep going, but the truth is that I have no choice, so I try to get some sleep and start again. Other days are not so bad, but overall Mom is going to get worse, so I worry about the future.

Marie: I hear you. I especially get freaked out when I find myself reacting the way my mom does when she forgets something!! The similarities between us make it even easier to imagine that I am going down the same road.

Steve: Yes -- and it makes me despair that the anti-facts folks can ever change and therefore despair over society's decline overall.

Diane Henders said...

Dementia is horrible. I think your mom is in the worst phase right now - not the clinical definition of "worst", but the worst in terms of supporting her. She still communicates easily and seems superficially "normal", and because you have decades of memories of her being "normal", it's a hammer-blow every time she says or does something that proves those days are gone. My heart goes out to you.

Martha said...

Dementia is such a cruel illness to the individual suffering from it and to those around them. I hope that one day there will be a cure or proper treatment. No one's life should end up that way.

As for propaganda, if you repeat a lie enough, it becomes truth. These days people in power care more about maintaining power and control rather than serving society in a kind and ethical way. It's disturbing. None of this will end well if we keep going like this.