Dementia and the Unfairness of Life

I spoke at a brunch on Saturday. As I was grabbing my coat to leave, I was approached by an older woman in a beautiful purple paint suit and matching purple hat.

She told me she was 96.

I wasn’t sure how she got to the brunch, but I think she may have driven herself.

She was vibrant with amazing skin. She spoke eloquently and had a friendly, approachable way about her.

I liked her immediately.

In our conversation, she mentioned that her daughter has dementia. I thought I misheard her. I asked for clarification.

Yes, her daughter has dementia. I was hoping I had misunderstood.

Her daughter is 72 and is the process of moving into a facility with her spouse.

I don’t have children, but I can say with confidence that being confronted with the possibility of one of your children passing away before you has to be one of life’s cruelest situations.

It’s not supposed to happen. We see our grandparents die. We see our parents die. We aren’t supposed to see our children die.

It’s not the order of things.

We think dementia is about our grandparents. We think it’s about our parents, maybe our spouses, or perhaps our siblings.

We don’t think of dementia being about our children.

For this 96 year old woman, it is about her child. Her child may be 72, but her child is still her child.

I didn’t have a lot of offer her in our conversation. I could have said it’s unfair but that’s so obvious it didn’t seem worth saying. I told her “I am so sorry,” but that seemed inadequate.

I put pressure on myself to find the right thing to say, but sometimes maybe there isn’t a right thing to say.

2 thoughts on “Dementia and the Unfairness of Life

  1. That’s hard… Like you, I would be at a loss for words other than I’m so very sorry. Perhaps asking if the woman had any kind of support wouldn’t be too out of line??

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