Monday, April 17, 2017

Under The Umbrella of Dementia’s Grip

Whether death is sudden or lingering and expected, grief steals from us; it robs us of our joy and sends us down a turbulent river of emotions.

A dear friend was diagnosis with dementia a decade ago. At the onset of his prognosis, there was little change in character. But in the last five years, and especially in the last six months, his disease rapidly progressed, and sadly, he lost his battle last week.

Often when we hear the word dementia, we presume memory loss. But dementia is so much more than that. Memory loss does indeed create a profound anguish because memories are the foundation of who we are. But on the whole, dementia encompasses a vast range of loss and sorrow, filled with many outpouring of emotions, bringing grief and loss to the forefront of our daily lives.

Because I had witnessed my friend's dementia unfold, it made me more aware of how much grief and loss are combined and present for caregivers and family members dealing with this disease. Before seeing the disabling characteristics of dementia first-hand, I mostly considered the words grief and loss (when used in tandem) to be associated with death. But long before there is any closure with death, the people involved must move through the agony of the anticipated losses that gradually steal the personal bond they once shared with their loved one. And once death does finally come, it's usually accompanied by a mixture of sorrow and relief: sorrow because their loved one is no longer with them, and relief because suffering has ended.

Dementia, however, is not a one size fits all. It’s a unique set of experiences for the individual and their family.

In my friend's case, there were times when this disease caused his brain to misfire, leaving him lost and frustrated. But there were other times when moments of normalcy had crept back to the surface, bringing joy and laughter into our lives.  

It can be a long emotional journey watching the person we love slip away from us, the person that may now not even know us. So we must savor those moments of normalcy. Because even when they become a rarity, they are still a precious gift of hope for all who are fearful and struggling under the umbrella of dementia's grip.

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