(Small Pleasures Are Still Pleasures)
I was writing a letter and preparing photos to send to a close relative, a dementia sufferer, in a care home. And I was wondering, what are the defining factors of what I was doing. It’s an easy mistake, but a huge mistake, to think the dementia is itself the dominant thing.
Yes, all I can do is write letters on nice paper that I hope is pleasingly tactile, and say positive but not anodyne things. All I can do is create online photo galleries that I hope awaken pleasant thoughts. And these are current things I’m writing about, current things I’ve photos of. I don’t want to dwell in the past – in effect writing-off the present. That feels to me to be demeaning.
Yes, I know whatever I do will be short-lived as short-term memory fades so rapidly in sufferers. But the care home staff say my efforts are well received. And that’s the issue. THE issue. However fleeting the pleasure my efforts give, it’s still pleasure.
Looking Back To Know The Future
So, a close family member, over 90, has dementia. From what I gather from reading around the subject all the classic symptoms are on display.
We all know that genes are formative. So it’s only logical to wonder whether, if close relatives have dementia as they age, does that mean that’s likely to be my fate too? ‘Oh, she’s just like her mother. Oh, he’s just like his father.’ Etc. Etc.
We all know that to some extent we are all some kind of summation of our ancestors, near and distant. One way or another we are what we inherit from them: our personalities, our characteristics, our physical selves. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say we are both what we inherit from our ancestors and how we respond to it.
Yes, there are all the other external factors in a life, everyone’s life, but the bed rock is our ancestors, one way or another.
While, with ‘Getting Directions’, I’ve been looking back to find out more about what’s made me how I am today, I now find myself looking forward as well, wondering if dementia is my future.
Of course, that’s a predictable enough emotional response to being confronted with dementia close to me. But I have to stand back. What am I trying to guess at? Yes, my own future mental health. But there are any number of variables – not least natural mental decline with passing years. And not least, as well, in my particular case there’s my own damaged brain. There are probably, surely, too many variables in the whole picture to contemplate the future with any certainty at all.
Arguably … thoughts about dementia are an inevitable and unsurprising by-product of an increasingly ageing population. Dementia is, in the main, a problem that comes with advancing years. Once the majority of people just didn’t live that long for it to be a common concern.
And in broader terms, from consulting soothsayers to newspaper horoscopes, along with any number of other ‘methods’, humans have always wanted to know the future.