It snuck in through the night like a monster you had nightmares about as a kid. It squeezed its way into every aspect of our lives, pushing and pulling us into different emotions, directions, and resolutions. It took the strongest person I know and made them look fragile and broken. That is the core of what dementia does. It breaks your heart and creates a challenge that nobody wins.
Seeing the person you love struggle is never easy, it always feels like a knife in your gut. However, dementia creates its own blade, and the sharpness cuts much more than just skin deep. What people do not know is that it’s the little things that truly get to you. It’s the look in their eyes when they know they have forgotten but are scared to admit it. It’s the lack of filter that causes hurt feelings and questions of motive. It’s watching the life of someone you love slowly dissolve into the shell of a body.
One of the hardest parts about watching your loved one suffer from dementia is that this isn’t a quick progression. It is slow and steady, and you can see that it will definitely win the race. Then comes the next question: How many people will it capture to run its race? Will you get it because your grandparent did? Will your parents or siblings? You start watching if your dad remembered to turn off the stove, if your brother remembered where he put his keys, even if your sister remembered to call you by your nickname instead of your given names. You cannot help but worry and panic. You cannot help but dread the potential of dementia capturing someone else.
You try to see the positives, remember that you are so lucky to know that time is running out, until you flip that coin and realize that you have to watch the sand slowly flow through the hourglass. There is no easy way to watch someone suffer like that. It is gut-wrenching and bone chilling. You hug them extra hard when you say goodbye because you feel like you’re embedding the memory into them. You call less often because every time you do, you hold your breath to see if they still recognize your voice. It is like seeing a train barreling towards you but having no escape plan.
The truth is, I hate dementia. I hate what it’s taken from me and what it will take from me. But more than that, I hate it for placing fear into my grandmother. For causing her to feel lonely and isolated in her own mind, and there is nothing I can do to fix the situation or make it better. I hate that it’s caused fear and tears. I hate that it causes fights and separation. I hate dementia and I always will.