“She is still the epitome of class,” Jenn said as she walked into my kitchen for our #weekendcoffeeshare. I had no idea who she was speaking of so I waited. “Mae,” she stated. I searched my memory and quickly remembered who she meant. I had just known one Mae in my life who fit that description. I asked if she had seen her this week. I thought Mae was quite sick. She was at least 20 years older than us. “Yes,”she said. “I saw her briefly. She was with her son.”
As we sat down to share our coffee, my mind drifted to an earlier place and time. Mae is a distant relative. A relative by marriage. She was a cousin of a dear departed uncle and I was uneasy for any news of her. I had always admired her.
Jenn commented that Mae seemed reasonably well considering her age and infirmities. She had known her and they had a nice chat about events in the present. They also reminisced a bit about the past. Jenn said that Mae seemed happy, though limited in how much she can get around.
“She seemed sensible at first,” Jenn said. “So much like the Mae we knew and loved. Her son warned me that her mind was not as good as it used to be but when we started to talk and she knew who I was, I doubted him.”
“Then she dropped the bomb.”
My ears perked up at that statement. Knowing Mae as I did, I knew she was a soft-spoken, Southern lady. I couldn’t imagine her dropping any bomb. I hadn’t seen Mae in a long time, but she was always a gracious lady who tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Mae drops a bomb? She would never do anything shocking or controversial. I was sure Jenn was overreacting.
She looked at me as she said, “Mae said she had murdered a child she had by a man who was not her husband.”
Mae is the face of dementia. This is what the victims and loved ones of people with dementia live with every day. Flashes of the person they had known and loved. Then shocking statements and behavior they were convinced their loved ones could never have thought of or perpetrated. Mae had not murdered anyone. Her son told Jenn that she lived in a fantasy world more every day. Her fantasies didn’t seem to bother her. They surely bothered everyone else.
Mae’s son quietly told Jenn that environmental factors, such as television, seemed to set off her fantasies. She would take scenes from television shows and think she was one of the characters except it would be real to her. She would even imagine that she was physically inside the TV. It had become so bad that they had to leave it turned off most of the time.
Mae had to have someone with her all the time. She had been a wonderful cook during her life and she would go into the kitchen, turn on the stove, and put something inappropriate on a plate, like paper. They had to put out more than one kitchen fire due to this. Mae could not be left alone for any length of time.
Dementia is a living nightmare for those suffering from it. We also have to remember the caregivers. For those caring for loved ones with severe dementia, they literally watch their family members disappear. Not only is caring for a loved one with dementia emotionally demanding, it is physically draining since they require constant care. At some point in the illness, families need help either in the form of outside caregivers or institutional involvement.
Jenn and I finished our morning coffee and continued chatting about Mae for a few minutes. It was worrying to both of us to think of her and her family and what they were facing. As Jenn left to go on with her day, I thanked her for filling me in, but I’ve thought of little else but the beautiful, classy Mae I once knew and the terrible illness called dementia. #amwriting #writing #blogging #bloggersrequired #dementia
*weekendcoffeeshare is sponsored by Parttime Monster