Questions: Supposing you had dementia, will you tell? Why?
Who will you tell?
Will you even know you have dementia?
Answers: umm, Yes, No, Maybe, It depends.
I have always wondered about the above questions, and struck by the different approach taken by 2 previous world leaders:-
In 1994, Ronald Reagan gave a speech announcing his Alzheimer’s disease. He ends his speech by saying –
“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”
By all accounts, he led a life cosseted by close family and friends until he passed away 10 years later.
On the other hand, Baroness Margaret Thatcher is not known to have admitted to having Alzheimer’s. Her daughter Carol was vilified for revealing her mother’s illness in her memoirs. She said (this taken from article in BBC News) –
“I almost fell off my chair. Watching her struggle with her words and her memory, I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
“She was in her 75th year but I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless and 100% cast-iron damage-proof. The contrast was all the more striking because she had always had a memory “like a website”.
In recent years, more and more public figures are standing up to admit they have dementia – Glen Campbell, Pat Summitt… Like Reagan, they are aware of their condition, facing up to it, accepting help, trying to live their lives the best way they can. Unlike Reagan, they are not hiding away.
There is still a significant stigma against mental illness in Singapore. There is no public face to dementia. Dementia is generally attributed to old age, as seen in the recent article below, which also highlights how family members go along with this erroneous belief.
Denial sure looks sweet and pleasant. But the truth is a great deal more painful and ugly. Painting only a rosy picture about mild dementia puts an unreasonable burden on caregivers who struggle daily.
But I’m guilty of going along with mom, and not talking about her dementia. That’s why the visits to the Memory Clinic are a strain. Undergoing the memory test makes her irritable, because the questions are so simple and she probably realises she ought to know the answers. Not knowing irks her.
And the Neurologist saying to her “You have dementia!” gives me a fright. I sense she is not willing to understand, not willing to acknowledge there is a problem with her mind. Because our sense of self is in our heads. That’s where we “are”. Being told we are not right in there must be earth shattering.
I am full of admiration for a fellow blogger, Kate Swaffer, who blogs regularly and advocates for dementia sufferers like herself. Please lend her your support!
Back to my original questions. Would I tell? Probably. If I knew. Will need all the help I can get!
Wouldn’t you tell?