It begins. Maybe with your husband. Your wife. Could be Mom. Or Dad. Sister. Brother. Best friend. You, yourself. Little things. No big deal. But you wonder. It goes on. Stranger things. You notice. Routine changes. You adapt. You do more. It gets worse. You think. It becomes obvious to others. It becomes apparent to you. You must name it. Could it be Parkinson’s? Alzheimer’s? Lewy Body Dementia? Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)? Vascular Dementia?
Like most Americans, you know the devastation of dementia from family or friends. Many of us feel at a loss to provide help or comfort. Look for the following stages. Help your loved one and yourself.
Denial: This Is Not Happening!
Everyone at this age has some memory trouble. Strong as ever, except for the years. Absolutely nothing wrong! Anyone could have mislaid their keys, left the water running, put the laundry in the pantry. Those people do not know what they are talking about. Fit as a fiddle! Just shut up about it, will you…
Anger: How Could This Happen To Me? So Unfair!
This is the worst. How dare they say such things? About their very own father/mother! About me! All I/we have done for them! And this is our reward? Rotten ingrates. How could God let this happen?! Simply, blindly furious. Rage rage against the dying of the light.
Bargaining: Exercise, Prayer, Diet
Follow doctor’s orders. Eat more fish. Exercise more. Go to church every day. Be nicer. Pray. Pray more. Do everything you are supposed to do. Then do more. It will go away if we are/I am
worthy. Please. Only say the word and I shall be healed. Let’s make a deal!
DEPRESSION: NOTHING IS GOING AWAY; IT IS JUST GETTING WORSE.
No way out. Overwhelming grief. Powerless. So sad. Life comes to this? No solution. Cannot fix it. Blank wall. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
ACCEPTANCE: THIS IS REALITY; NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT, BUT OKAY.
No, it is not getting better. This is it. Not what anyone wanted, expected, hoped. It is what it is. Terrible beauty in sacrifice. Praiseworthy endurance. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. No fault. No regrets. Satisfaction. Content.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIKE IT, BUT YOU MUST DEAL WITH IT
So many folks get stuck on the first stage, Denial. Baffling behaviors, confusion in common place activities, mood swings. After a diagnosis, nothing is more common than for family and friends to realize that “this” had been going on for months, years. It becomes clear as all the explanations and excuses fall away. Why didn’t we act sooner?
Dementia is insidious and destructive. Nothing is easy. We must be on guard, but sensitive. Vigilant, but not insulting. Concerned, but not condescending. It is a difficult, narrow path to tread.
But we do it for love. Love of parent, spouse, sibling, friend. We do it for the best.
Ten Warning Signs Of Dementia
Here is some advice from the Alzheimer’s Association, people just like you. Ten Warning Signs:
If you notice any of these signs, take action
If you notice any of these signs, take action. Note your concerns so you can address them with a friend, family member or doctor.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
4. Confusion with time or place.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.
Alzheimer’s Association ©2019 Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved. Rev. Jun19TS-0066
No list is comprehensive. Nothing substitutes for professional evaluation and judgment. But, guided by your genuine care and concern, these ten signs point the way to early detection and effective care.
What’s Any Of This Got To Do With Elder Law?
Elder Law, I believe, is all about recognizing the reality. Dementia happens. You can ignore the possibility or prepare. You can let your lifesavings evaporate or use them to supplement available benefits. LifePlanning™ means we reject denial, overcome anger, give up on bargaining, sweep away depression. We accept life as it is, doing the best we can with what we have, never giving up, always looking for and committed to the good. Accepting life as it is. Accepting that our role is to always make it better. For ourselves, our loved ones, our families and friends. Planning that gets results.