Dementia impacts more than individual, deteriorates family unit

Take a moment and think about what a penny looks like, easy right? Could you sketch out the front, or maybe the back? As simple as it seems, the vast majority of people can’t remember the details of this basic American currency. 

This little example is one of the most surprisingly  accurate representations of what individuals suffering from dementia go through on a daily basis but with tasks essential to living. This  feeling of knowing what something is but not being able to truly remember is something my family combats constantly. 

The odds that an individual’s life has been touched by dementia and its symptoms are extremely high. However, in case someone is unfamiliar with this disease that’s diagnosed an average of every 3 seconds, according to the World Health Organization, allow me to explain how it has impacted my family.

Dementia is an umbrella term for multiple diseases that heavily affect a person’s entire mind such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and  Huntington’s diseases. Among the well-known symptom of rapid memory loss, dementia diseases also influence moods, behaviors, and other crucial cognitive functions. 

Additionally, dementia can occur for many reasons, but most often it is an individual’s genetics. To make matters worse, scientists have yet to find a reliable cure for this disease. 

However, the pain caused by dementia is not limited to the individual, but instead causes deep emotional and mental scars for all those who love the person.

I have experienced this first-hand with my grandfather, and I can’t accurately express how much it hurts to see someone you’ve admired your entire life deteriorate right in front of you. 

Despite this happening multiple times in my family my grandfather’s case was more sensitive. The advise that is often deemed helpful for most dementia cases was only words when it came to applying them to grandfather. I won’t say how, but decisions my grandfather made throughout his life prior to dementia taking hold of him made things much more complicated.

My grandfather went from running two businesses, passionately cooking amazing meals, and being the strongest person I know, physically and mentally (literally he was a decorated bodybuilder) to being incapable of much more than a shower on his own at the age of 75. 

Nothing could have prepared me for how much my family’s life would change; not the egotistical individual that never experienced it trying to make my mother and I seem incapable of handling it with belittling words, not the advice from hours of research, and not the advice from my family. 

 Dementia is demoralizing and debilitating, making it one of the scariest diseases to attack a family. Watching someone lose their memory one piece at a time is agonizing and takes a large toll on everyone involved.

Each day I live in fear that my grandfather won’t remember who I am or will reach a point beyond what my mom and I can handle, and I fear it’s closer than I’m anticipating.

All I can hope for is that he never forgets how much I love him. 

Sitting on the sidelines, watching dementia ravage my grandfather is such a helpless feeling. I know there is nothing I can do to change it or make it better. I know that it is an inevitable path he is on that will end with more sadness.

My advice to others is to spend time with loved ones and appreciate each moment they have with them because they never know when those moments will be corrupted by something outside of their control.