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Dealing with dementia: Don't be silent

| October 3, 2021 12:00 AM

I read with great interest a story a co-worker of mine, Carol Marino, wrote and was published in Thursday’s Daily Inter Lake.

It dealt with one woman’s ordeal of seeing a loved one, her husband, suffer from dementia.

Some of the details were familiar to me and some were probably familiar to those of you who read the story, too.

My mother suffered from dementia for a decade before her death in November 2016. She was 74.

We first began seeing signs when she was in her early 60s. When we were getting together for dinner there were times when I would come over early to help cook, particularly when we were barbecuing.

For instance, she may have laid a pair of scissors on the counter, turned to prepare something on the kitchen island and within a few minutes not recall where she had placed the scissors.

“Don’t you remember Mom? You just put them there a minute ago?” I might have said.

But that only increased her aggravation because she didn’t remember. We all experience varying degrees of forgetfulness, but it was the frequency and types of situations that really alarmed us.

Luckily for the family, my father had worked in social services his entire adult life. He knew more about such afflictions than most people and he also had a good friend, a psychologist, who gave my mom a test that confirmed our growing concerns.

While various medications helped balance my mom’s moods and control her anger, we learned how we were going to help.

Patience from her husband and my dad, Tim, and her two sons, was a major requirement.

Statements such as “Don’t you remember?” were stricken from our vocabularies.

My dad’s relationships with the medical field greatly helped, too. While Mom still lived at home, she, Dad and I met with a doctor who prescribed the perfect mixture of medications to help slow the spread of dementia while keeping her moods even.

What a blessing it was for everyone.

At the same time, I frequently wondered what caused my mother’s disease. I spoke with friends and coworkers who had family members dealing with it. There were some similarities in life circumstances and events with others, but there were also people who shared none.

As I grew into an adult, I learned about some of the negative things that happened to Mom. There were varying degrees of abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual, from her mother and maternal grandfather. She even had electroshock “treatment” when she was a small child. I don’t know the specifics of how it was administered, but it would have occurred in the early 1940s.

How much did these events play a role in her developing dementia? I know with certainty that the abuse did not help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 6 million ages 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, which is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s advocates say it may be more.

There is no cure for it now, but there are those who have undertaken the monumental effort to find one.

For those who have a loved one or a friend who they think may suffer from it, please don’t be silent. Reach out, there are those who can help.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.