Dementia: the often unknown path

There’s no roadmap for living with or alongside someone who has dementia. When a dear friend was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s some 10 years ago, no one handed him or his wife any sort of roadmap for the journey ahead. This is precisely because there is no roadmap. While there may be the odd signpost, for the most part they are few and far between. For carers, living alongside a person who is living with dementia, life becomes an exercise in navigating the unknown. From the time that a diagnosis is made the unknowns accumulate. They rear their insistent little heads in the questions carers pose. ‘How long will this disease take? Will my loved one forget who I am? Will they forget their children/grandchildren/our friends? And as time passes …. Will I be able to care for my loved one at home? Will they have to go to a nursing home?’ The answers to these questions for the most part: unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown …. Unknown. Perhaps more than in any other time in history, owing to medical and social advances, we want to know the path that we will travel in our later years. In our post-industrial, highly-surveilled, medicalised lives we have been fictitiously led to believe that it is our right to have an ageing path that is clear and well-defined, even in the midst of failing health. However, if dementia elbows its way into your world, the inherent unpredictability of life (which we tend to unwittingly ignore), gives over in greater measure to the unknowns of this disease, which for carers, becomes increasingly impossible to ignore. Living with someone who has dementia can resemble walking blindfolded into a dense forest of exposed tree roots, low hanging branches and prickly bushes. Being a carer requires creativity to carve out your own path– your unique roadmap through the dense undergrowth.

 

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