Is dementia a fate worse than death?
I ask myself this question as the older ive got the more times ive had to deal with it and today has been the icing on the cake metaphorically speaking.
Today i went to see an old friend, someone ive know for over 20 years, someone who was one of the most talented people i know, someone kind, witty, intelligent and very funny. A man who flew fast jets for the RAF, then a commercial pilot who while working for British Airways flew hundreds of thousands of people around the world in a career spanning nearly 35 years. A man who’s lust for life led him to teach himself how to paint beautiful water colours and oil paintings, learn the guitar, design and build micro engineered engines and steam engines as well as how to carve exquisite wooden carvings of horses, dogs and wildfowl.
But alas no more!
Today this man is a shell of his former self, an almost empty vessel of a man with little or no short term memory and a man whos long term memory has gotten worse since the last time I saw him in January.
A man who cannot remember his own dogs names even thought some of his animals are over 10 years old. He can’t even take them for a walk as his memory is so bad he gets lost walking round the area hes lived for many years! A man who constantly called me by several different names today and who openly admits to not being able to remember my name.
A man who now finds it difficult to remember whether he’s eaten his previous meal or taken his much needed medication.
On walking past his study i see the things he held so dear in the enjoyment of life now sat dormant, his easal is empty, his guitar now covered in dust, a computer permenantly sat on standby waiting to be pressed into action as well as woodworking tools lain in the same place now for over a year with a sculpture of a duck half finished.
Even outside his house, the once fertile garden lays untended and his car sits surrounded by weeds not having turned a wheel for over a year.
He’s still well looked after by his ever doting wife, whos been by his side for 60 years but who’s loving care has now taken its toll and she stuggles with the simple tasks in life. Her memory is also fading, her body worn and broken but still she battles on to care for her husband who now stuggles to remember her name and lovingly calls her darling.
She tells me he has good days, his memory is sharp and quick but today he cant remember anything in the short term and his long term thinking isnt quick.
So dementia, is it worse than death? Well only just about, as our memories are what define us and without we’re just an empty shell.
It breaks me heart to see a man i love like this. Someone who treated me and my family like one of his own, as an empty vessel, bereft of the things which made him what he once was.
I know its wrong to grieve for someone who isnt yet dead but when someone dies at least you know there gone and their not there to see anymore, but i find dementia has taken all that was good and left nothing anyone can relate to behind!
I spent my childhood looking at the same things as my grandad had alzheimers in his latter years and shortly before he died had regressed to such a state the he was almost infant like. Poor guy also has parkinsons so he shook all the time but this didnt seem to bother him as he could never remember why he was shaking.
I hope my friend doesnt befall the same fate as although he is alive, without the mind the body is just a vessel whos automatic reflexes keep it alive but your not living as theres nothing happening in the brain!
Is Dementia a fate worse than death? not really but its got to come a close second.