Wednesday 29 May 2013

Dementia destroys families, and alienates friends...

Dementia is often regarded as a disease that destroys the person who has it. Wrong! Dementia, also destroys families and friendships, and, is not a disease.

The stigma surrounding dementia, makes it the modern version of leprosy. Those living with dementia, are treated as if they should be carrying a bell and crying "Unclean!" Yet, it is not a disease, and should not be treated as such. Dementia is merely a term used to describe a collection of conditions and illnesses that affect the brain, and have an effect, to a greater or lesser extent, upon the cognitive abilities of those who have it.

It is not contagious. And, the majority of us who live beyond the age of 80, are very likely to develop the symptoms of one or more forms of the condition.

Main carers of those with dementia, will often find themselves isolated. Isolated from family, as visits diminish, and blame seeking becomes rife. And friends, friends who don't understand, wither away, and that's what they see - the person they once knew - withering away.

Families can become quite nasty - they turn on the carer - the one person who understands, and protects. Protection, in their eyes, becomes confrontation. This perceived confrontation, creates tensions - the carer is often left alone, fighting a classic David and Goliath battle.

To continue the loosely religious cliches, friends and relatives follow in the footsteps of Pontius Pilate, they wash their hands. Often at a time, when the carer and caree needs them most.

For many living with dementia, and those caring for them, the emotional and financial burdens, become almost, or completely, unbearable. Just when help is needed, finances fail, and no-one wants to know - you become a risk. Unfortunately, this risk extends beyond the personal, and even extends as far as the State.

Once dementia takes over, as far as many families are concerned, that person has gone. They're only interested in what they may ultimately inherit. However, that person has not gone. It may be many years before they do. Yet, the stigma of dementia, has already condemned them to the fate of being an individual, who in the eyes of a large number of people, no longer exists.

At whatever stage they find themselves, along the long and arduous road of living with dementia, that person, is still a person. They need to be, and must be, treated with the utmost respect. A respect they deserve, having already completed a long, and often interesting and fascinating, journey through life.

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