Dementia is weirder than fiction

I don’t read much fiction. Correction: I don’t read fiction at all.

I like non-fiction. I like to read about real stuff because what happens in real life is, to me, often stranger and more fascinating than fiction.

I am not picking on fiction. I know many people read fiction as an escape from the real world, and I completely respect that. It’s just never been me.

Speaking of non-fiction and raw real life…I have had more chances to connect with those supporting individuals living dementia over the last three months than ever before. And what I am learning is incredibly valuable as I attempt to create programming to support families negotiating dementia.

But, what people tell me, often seems like fiction.

I spoke with a man whose family had to buy a new couch because his dad has Alzheimer’s and couldn’t see the couch–which was a similar color to the floor and wall.

I talked to a husband whose wife is convinced he is the plumber and had come to fix the toilet. He sometimes take his tools to the bathroom and clinks them around to step into her reality. Then she writes him a check and tell him to leave.

A woman told me that her mom couldn’t stop laughing. It wasn’t that she thought something was funny. It was just that a laugh was the only sound she was able to vocalize.

A son told me that his dad couldn’t stop zipping and unzipping his jeans. He would sit in a chair all day–zip, unzip, zip, unzip. They put some sweatpants on him and he got very agitated. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands when there was no fly to zip. They went back to the jeans.

A granddaughter told me her grandpa would hit on her at family gatherings. He’d ask her out on dates. Strangely, she told me, her cousins seemed almost jealous that he never asked them out. It

And then there was a woman who told me that her mom had her mixed up with a character from a TV show. That TV character happened to be Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy. After trying for weeks to convince her mom she was not Meredith Grey, she decided it was just easier to tell her mom that her most recent surgery went quite well.

Dementia takes us places that we would have previously considered absurd. Weird. Silly. Ridiculous.

But yet, here we are. This is what dementia is. And it amazes me when families and loved ones roll with this…they step into the role of plumbers and Meredith Grey. They dish out a few hundred dollars for new couches. They somehow roll with their grandpa asking them out on a date.

Forget fiction. This is real life, and I’m not sure how it could get more interesting, weird, fascinating, heartbreaking, tear jerking, but I would be selling humanity short if I didn’t mention love, caring, warmth, and devotion…although they sometimes show themselves in ways you wouldn’t expect. Whoever thought that acting like Meredith Grey would be that way that you were devoted to your mother with dementia? Did you ever think that pretending to be a plumber would be a way to show love to your wife?

But dementia. It’s weird.

One thought on “Dementia is weirder than fiction

  1. I can totally identify with the family who had to replace their couch because the father couldn’t ‘see’ it. My husband’s eyesight is also affected by his dementia and his ‘thing’ is the difference in height and color between floor coverings–i.e., moving from one room to another with a different color floor in each room. He stops at door thresholds and carefully steps over the threshold. Amazing… And, the difference in height between a rug and a bare floor will cause him to stop and reflect on the difference in the height and the feel of the different materials. Weird is the right word for the oddities of dementia. Thanks!

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