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Have you ever known anyone with dementia or Alzheimer’s? If not, count your blessings, all of them. If you have, then you understand that it’s a heartbreaking disease that affects not only the patient, but everyone in their circle.
My aunt suffered dementia during the last few years of her life. Although we were very close, I didn’t notice what was happening at first. After all, we all forget things once in a while. But gradually, over time, she began to have the classic symptoms. She was still pleasant, still loving, but it wasn’t her. Conversations were repeated over and over. Telephone calls increased from once a day to every time she passed the phone. Things were lost, and she couldn’t stay focused. She couldn’t do her own banking or make her own meals. Quite frankly, this was the last thing I expected. It just never occurred to me that this could happen and I didn’t accept it easily.
On a brighter note, I should tell you that we were still able to laugh together. She was painfully aware that she was not “quite right” as she put it, and was able to keep her sense of humor right up to the day she passed away (I don’t know how, but she did).
I think possibly the hardest part of understanding any sort of dementia is we expect that person, who looks the same, to act the same as always. I can't explain how being my aunt's caregiver affected me. All I can tell you is that I still can't quite get over the shock of those years.
May you never have to see this disease, but if you do, know that there is help and people who are glad to give you assistance and moral support. Don’t try to do it alone! Caregivers need care too.