We may find ourselves worrying as we become more forgetful that dementia may be an issue. An expert on geriatrics and a licensed occupational therapist, Teepa Snow gives many lectures and speeches on the subject. In this case, she shared with us a vivid illustration of the difference between dementia and forgetfulness. In my last article we talked about what forgetfulness looks like; today I share how Teepa Snow demonstrates the signs of dementia. (If you haven’t read the previous article, click back and read it; it will help the following make more sense.)
“Here I am in the same scenario. I’m watching a movie, I decide I want coffee. The phone rings. I talk to Betty. I hang up the phone.
“I look around in the kitchen and I see a bottle of water with an empty glass beside it. ‘Aha! I told my son there were people sneaking up from the basement and stealing toilet paper and eating my food. Here is the evidence. See this dirty glass? Well they left it behind this time. I told him they were sneaking up through the basement. I’m going to put this glass in the freezer so when my son goes to get a drink of soda he’ll see it.
“’Now, what else was I going to do? Well look here (looking at the unfinished bottle of water she saw previously). Here’s another piece. See, they don’t even finish it off. You see what I’m saying? Now I need to put this back in the kitchen – ‘ And I spend the day roaming about doing things that are illogical. Except they make sense to me, because I’m picking up on whatever is around, but I’m not hooking it all together.
“At ten minutes after two, the telephone rings. Now for all of you, you were just reminded of what was supposed to happen, but I’ve got dementia. So I answer the telephone. ‘Hello? Hey Betty. How are you? Where am I? Well, I’m at home, where are you? What are you doing at the mall? Well, if you wanted me to come to the mall, you should have called. No, you didn’t call me. Betty, I have not talked to you today. I don’t know who you talked to, but it wasn’t me. Are you sure it wasn’t Margaret? Betty, listen, I hate to be ugly, but I think you’d better call the doctor. I think you might have that dementia.’
“This is not normal; not normal at all. Is it going to help to tell me to remember? No. Because can I? No. This is where we have to change attitudes. When it’s no longer forgetfulness; when forgetfulness is not the issue. Saying, ‘Don’t you remember?’ is foolish with dementia because reminding me is not going to help.”
This is the picture of dementia.
You may enjoy listening to more of Teepa Snow’s lectures; they are warm, amusing, candid and insightful.