Last week I attended a meeting of the Coromandel Valley Quilters club, supporting someone from the The Bereaved Through Suicide Support Group Inc. as they were one of six recipients of $500 being donated by the quilters club. It was with some shock when another group, Tender Loving Carers (a new group set up in South Australia raising money to provide respite for carers) received their donation and in their thank you speech I heard a friends husband had died from the symptoms of dementia and had been buried that day, and another friend whose husband had died recently from dementia had a lucky escape with a fire in her home. It was a shock to hear this news at a public meeting, and to face up once again to the possibility or reality of it happening to us.
Whenever we meet other couples or families facing the diagnosis of dementia, it is easy when they seem to be doing well, to forget it is a terminal illness, and the person will die. Of course, we will all die one day anyway, but dementia is a terminal illness, and so we must face up to it in a different way. Recently, two partners of friends have died from dementia, and this year three more with younger onset dementia have been placed into residential AGED care. It is a disease without the same credentials as other terminal illnesses, and so I’ve been wondering if the mourning is impacted more negatively. I certainly know families facing dementia do not receive the same palliative support as a family of a person with cancer of MND or other terminal illnesses, and so the preparation is often not as ‘complete’ as it should or could be.
None of us spend much time thinking about death, or mourning in preparation of our own death, until we are told we might die sooner than expected. With dementia, there is a gradual, but constant loss of functions, and we mourn them deeply. Eventually it is our loved ones who mourn more deeply, as they witness the last ugly stages of dementia, preceding death. This is when many people would choose euthanasia if it was legal. This blog today has been a NaNoWriMo style piece of writing, and when I started I had no idea where I was heading, but the idea of dementia causing the person diagnosed with dementia, and their loved ones to be mourning from diagnosis until death seems to make sense, as there is a new ‘death’ of some ability or function as we progress.
My final words today are those of The Dalai Lama, which I have on my email footer and have written here before, but they are profound and worth repeating.
Food for thought…
The Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him the most.
Man – because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present,
the result being that he does not live in the present, or the future,
he lives as if he is never going to die and then he dies having never really lived.