Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Little Bit of Hope

I’ve been reading about a phenomenon called “pleasant dementia.”  This seemingly contradictory term first came to my attention in a recent edition of the Mayo Clinic’s caregiving newsletter, and when I did an Internet search I found hundreds of articles about individuals who exhibit peace and happiness as Alzheimer patients.  Many articles told of people whose personalities actually improved following a diagnosis of dementia. 

This doesn’t always happen because at least a portion of the symptoms dementia patients experience are due to the specific part of the brain most affected by Alzheimer plaques and tangles.  However, many sources cited environmental influences as playing a part, and this offers hope. 

The “pleasant” portion of dementia is not always evident immediately following the diagnosis as the care recipient loses independence, the caregiver struggles with new responsibilities, and both suffer grief and fear.  My first year as my mother’s caregiver was certainly a challenge.  She was confused, I was angry, and we both were resentful.  There were many physical challenges for her that year as we struggled to reach maintenance doses of Alzheimer medications.  She fell and broke her shoulder as a result of a caregiving error on my part (throw rugs are dangerous for the elderly).  I had to nurse her through numerous stomach upsets and a bout of pneumonia.  I really didn’t think we were going to make it. 

But almost a year to the date following Mom’s diagnosis, things got better.  We both came to acceptance of the changes in our lives necessitated by her disease, and Mom settled into a level of contentment that was unprecedented.  It doesn’t take much to make Mom happy nowadays: soft music, a diet coke, a book to read, and her journal at hand. Her needs are simple.  She’s not like she was but I love who she is. 

Mom doesn’t worry about either the past or the future, and I know her faith has contributed to the ease with which she let go of worry for her own life.  Soon after she came to live with us I found these words recorded in her journal:  This is one of those times when I hardly know who I am, where I am, or why! Well, God knows and when He is ready He will fill me in.” Mom is philosophical about her lack of short-term memory and has a sunny assurance that her needs will be met. 

The knowledge that a diagnosis of dementia is not an automatic sentence to misery goes a long way toward easing fear of the future.  This is a comfort for those of us who dread the possibility of an Alzheimer diagnosis for ourselves or for someone we love.    


  1. Your mother's quotes is simply fabulous! Thanks for sharing...

  2. Also seeing happiness in my husband. Loved Video Three.