Dementia is a complex condition characterized by memory loss on one hand and deterioration of intelligence and personality on the other. Whenever I see patients with dementia I always think of someone who has been so productive in life, deteriorating as the brain shrinks with ageing.
We all have known somebody with dementia. We have friends whose parents and even family members suffer from dementia. It is very important that we have a positive outlook towards patients with dementia.
They fight a hard battle daily in their lives. They do things and do not remember them. Their near and dear ones have to at times suffer the plight of not being recognised by the very person who loved them so dearly.
It is important that we respect a patient with dementia and do not treat him/her with disregard just because he has lost the capacity to think and decide for himself/herself.
The patient with dementia that I am speaking about today was a fine and productive bread winner for his/her family. He or she was a doting parent and a dedicated spouse. The patient’s forehead is now strewn with the marks that time has etched on it but his/her brain has suffered the bruise of that very same period of time.
The brain has shrunk and this emotional human being is now one who hardly expresses himself/himself and bears a straight face. A human being who used to smile at people he knew now pretends he doesn’t know them and never smiles. They remain lost in thoughts of a bygone past that is never going to come back. They speak about it but not many people lend them an ear
The children who they looked after so lovingly tend to neglect them. We need to look after elderly people with dementia and not dump them in old age homes. We need to be with them till the end of their time and give them the very love they gave us as they nurtured us.
The dignity of elderly patients with dementia must be preserved and we must find joy in attending and caring for them. We need to help them to lead the best possible life till they can.
The author is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Founder Trustee of the Desousa Foundation