By now, in the series, we have understood Dementia, its causes, the people it affects and its treatment, and the misinformation surrounding it. But what has been missing is that intimate human connection to understand what exactly happens when someone or their loved ones have Dementia, the lives attached to the victims, and how it impacts their loved ones. Thus, the following are a few harrowing tales of survivors who went through it all.
Mr. Udham Singh (name changed) was a retired 70-year-old man living in South Delhi with his family when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Within months, his mental faculty dissolved so much that he could not even remember his home, children, and grandchildren. During a trip to the market, his daughter lost sight of him, and he wandered about. When he couldn't return home by nightfall, the family registered an FIR to locate his whereabouts. After several days of this search, he was finally found sleeping on a footpath just 500 meters away from his home. Reunited with his family, his happiness was uncanny, and the family ensured that this never happened again. He passed away four years later in his sleep. The family ensured that he was taken care of and lived well during his final days.
Waking up each morning when you have Alzheimer's, is like a scene from an amnesiac horror movie, Andrea Gillies suggests in her powerful and disturbing account of two years spent caring for her mother-in-law, Nancy, in the grip of galloping Dementia. Nancy wakes "to find that she has aged 50 years overnight, that her parents have disappeared, that she doesn't know the woman in the mirror, nor the people who claim to be her husband and children, and has never seen the series of rooms and furnishings that everyone around her claims insistently is her home," Gillies writes. The transition from sanity to Alzheimer's-induced oblivion is like stepping through Alice's looking glass, Gillies explains. The most distressing period is moving from one side to the other.
Julie Burger of Vancouver, Washington, hid the initial symptoms of her Dementia from her husband, Les. She had been losing her photographic memory for more than two years, "slowly but surely," she says. Born in Puerto Rico, Julie spoke six languages and had been the valedictorian of her high school class. She'd earned a Master's degree and served in executive and volunteer roles for the American Red Cross for half a century. All of this academic and professional success had been buoyed by her incredible memory and her voracious appetite for the written word, so when her photographic memory started to slip, and her rate of reading and level of comprehension dropped, she knew something was wrong. After the diagnosis of Dementia, she was distraught and lived in fear of losing herself and her precious memories. But her husband and family ensured that she lived an entire life even when her mind deteriorated.
These are some of the stories from more than 50 million who are suffering from Dementia right now. To have an incurable disease is hard enough, but to have one that essentially annihilates yourself and your identity is nothing short of a nightmare. But alas, research is going on to find a cure or to reverse the onset by studying stem cells and CRISPR techniques, while Brain Machine Interfaces are getting good enough to store someone's memories. No matter the result, we can ensure that we stand strong together with those suffering now and hope this nightmare may be eliminated from humankind soon.