Dementia – a name befitting a goddess

“Dementia. Ruth puzzled over the diagnosis: How could such a beautiful-sounding word apply to such a destructive disease? It was a name befitting a goddess: Dementia, who caused her sister Demeter to forget to turn winter into spring.” ― Amy TanThe Bonesetter’s Daughter

Human Dementia Problems

It’s true, isn’t it? Dementia is a beautiful-sounding word. Lyrical. Musical.

It’s hard to find the beauty in dementia. There’s humour, sometimes, in the context of – “If you didn’t laugh you might cry.” Not unkind laughter. Laughter which allows a carer, a partner, a son or daughter a few moments of blessed respite.

A cousin welcomed mother-in-law into the family home to take care of her in her latter years, when she was in the grip of dementia. One day, M-in-L phoned the police. When the young constable arrived, hot foot,  at the house, M-in-L stated, very clearly, ‘I wish to report a theft.’ Then, she pointed accusingly at my cousin and said, ‘That woman stole my son!”

Daddy (my father), in the years before he died, sometimes thought he was a Spitfire pilot.

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At the time, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not to humour him. Certainly, telling him he was imagining things didn’t help. In his dementia world, he WAS a Spitfire pilot. To try to persuade him otherwise simply confused him. (Ironic, that) My policy was to listen to him for a while, then try to divert his mind on to a different (more realistic?) tack.

Me: Do you need anything, Daddy? When I leave here I’m going shopping.

Daddy: (musing) I wonder if I’ll be able to see you from the cockpit.

Fond memories of a memory that had dissolved. Fond memories because Daddy was happy in that Spitfire. Other places were dark and distressing for him. Then I’d scrabble about grasping at anything I could remember for happy talk, keep talkin’ happy talk…in words, not in South Pacific song –  because that was the only thing I could think of to do. I don’t know if it helped.


It might have helped me, to fill the huge yawning hole that used to be my father’s mind.

The reason for writing this today? Because I’m restarting a theatre piece for a dear actress friend, long neglected (the piece, not the friend!) about dementia.

When I remember those lost memories, I know why I want to write it.



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  1. […] you should have seen me yesterday, before I started working on the theatre piece I’d neglected for so […]

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