and other tales



By no stretch of the imagination is dementia fun, but it can be funny.


Many people use the term Alzheimer’s (mistakenly called “Old Timer’s” by some) when talking about a severe memory loss but, from what I’ve heard, Alzheimer’s can only be definitively diagnosed by an autopsy, and most living folks object to having one performed on them.  Therefore I opt for using the broader term of “dementia.”


If you’re dealing with someone who has some form of dementia, one way to survive is to allow yourself to see the humor in the behaviors involved.  It may not be funny when it’s happening, but it makes for some hilarious stories later.  It’s O.K. to laugh.  No, it’s not.  You’re a terrible person.  Bad, bad, bad.  Oh, phooey on that.  I’m gonna laugh.


Imagine if you couldn’t remember what you just ate, read, said, who you talked to or where you put things.  How stressful would that be?


To deal with the stress that her lack of memory caused, my mother began to drink.  “But I only drank this much,” she would say, as she held up her thumb and forefinger, separated by a fraction of an inch, to indicate a tiny bit.  Yes, Mom, but you drank “this much” 5 times today.


“Why won’t the pharmacy refill my prescription?”  Well, Mom, because they just refilled your 3-month prescription a month ago.  “Impossible!  I write down every pill I take.”  And, indeed, she did.  The problem was, when she felt stressed, she just popped a stress pill and wrote it down, with no regard for the fact that it was to be taken only twice a day.  Oops.


One day Mom confided in me that she believed her caregiver had stolen her bra.  My mother was a small woman.  Her caregiver was a large-busted plus size woman.  It did no good reasoning with Mom that this woman’s bosom would not fit into her bra.


And on a recurring basis she was convinced that “someone” had stolen her dentures.  Ewww!  Who would want to put someone else’s teeth in their mouth?  They were found, variously, under her pillow, on the side of the bathtub, wrapped in a napkin in the trash, until the day that they were never found again.


While out shopping with her caregiver, Mom would suddenly reach out and grab men, which startled and spooked them.  As far as I know, she did not grab anyone’s crotch.  We were out to dinner one night and, although I didn’t consider this odd at the time (am I O.K.???), I later realized that reaching up and stroking your waiter’s beard is not appropriate.  He was gracious and made no comment.  I hope we tipped him well.


Mom is gone now, but it amuses me to know that somewhere out there is a large woman, miserable in a too-small bra and teeth that don’t fit.