Humans have found that it’s possible to hold our gut-level fears at bay while we take the only option available: making the unknown known. Only then can you know whether you must flee or stick around and see if you can help.
As the silver tsunami floods into the U.S. more and more families are having to confront what was, in years past, one of the most feared of unknowns: dementia in an aging family member. More is known these days about the different forms of the disease and how to care for its sufferers. Still, families who have been through the experience of caring for a dementia sufferer call it one of the most stressful experiences of their lives.
If an older family member you know is showing signs of dementia, there’s likely a part of you that’s scared to death.
Humans are hard-wired to fear the unknown. Four-legged animals flee when they’re confronted with a being or a situation they’ve never seen before. Two-legged animals, however, have developed a better methodology.
This is because we’ve learned over all those centuries of one-step-up, two-steps-back, that once we get to know and understand the unknown, that fear shrivels, wastes away into nothingness.
And there’s enough help and resources available in our modern times that the fears and the dismal visuals have lost their right to exist.
For a comprehensive and compassionate overview of dementia and dementia care in the U.S., Aging Solutions recommends an overlooked 2019 book Reimagining Dementia – Building a Life of Joy and Dignity from Beginning to End, by Dr. Tia Powell.
You need this overview because you don’t know yet what kind of help is out there for you and your family, if that help is any good, or whether you’ll just have to take on everything and soldier through alone. (Your lifespan will likely be shortened if you do this.)
Dr. Powell contends, and Aging Solutions agrees, that now is past the time when we need something beyond the intense medical/pharmacological focus on ‘treating’ dementia. We also need something beyond annual fund-raising Walks.
We need to know what care dementia sufferers really need and how to get it for them.
“We are trying to science our way out of the problem of dementia,” Dr. Powell writes. “We invest billions in finding magic pills so we can avoid the expense of caring for those who have it. If and when we get real treatments or prevention, that will be great. But a pill is not going to rescue the baby boomers….we will have increasing numbers of people with dementia for twenty years or more—maybe much more. We better start planting potatoes. We’ll have to apply a better portion of our research funding, our care dollars, and our best thinking to the problem of providing care.”
Less global, more local, the Bay Area offers many options for confronting D-word fear through education. On May 8, the Family Caregiver Alliance in San Franciso is offering an online Dementia 101 class that will ‘provide a basic understanding of dementia and how it affects an individual. Dementia 101 will also include some tips for caregivers on how to cope with these changes.’
Go for it!