Dementia at a Distance and Up Close

Learning that someone has Dementia is shocking as well as upsetting. Even at a distance, one can hear the lost ramblings of the individual who doesn’t realize they are lost. Up close, it is disturbing and real, not for the person whose mind is being burned away, but for those who have to witness it.

Add to this disease a heavy dose of Passive Aggressive behavior and toss in the remnants of a controlling nature as well as large slug of alcoholism (Another addition is a tendency towards violence.) and the mix results in one nasty individual who bears no semblance to the person they once were.

This person who always made sure there was food on the table. Who, every Valentine’s Day, got his kids chocolates and cards – the sweets were always in the obligatory heart shaped box – and who delighted in getting “surprise” gifts for the family.

This individual who had a clear grasp on every aspect of business and an innate ability to master new tasks effortlessly is gone. All these parts have narrowed down to non existence as their world becomes about what they want, which changes by the moment, and what they need.

From a distance, it is very easy for friends and family members to dismiss the unsettling nature of this behavior. Not living with the stress and strain of how each day will begin or end exacts a certain toll on the people who deal with this up close.

Where one day, or one moment, the sufferer of this disease can be friendly, laughing and congenial and then suddenly, shockingly, change. Stalking around the property yelling that they “told that kid to get out and never come back.”


Believing that one child had flown out in the middle of nowhere to tell them off…


To spit at the sight of one of the other children…


To have their expression suddenly change to one of pure hate in mid conversation…


To suddenly become watchful; suddenly appearing like some confused angry jack in the box wanting to know what is going on and “who’s out there!”


To suddenly retrieve their pistol and load it, “because I might just need to use it.”

Amazingly enough, there is some sort of mechanism that allows them to “play” normal. Whether this is the vestiges of their Passive Aggressive traits that enables this is not known but it is, nonetheless, disturbing. It should be pointed out, however, that “playing” normal is not the same as being normal. Check to see if the individual can maintain this behavior.

They cannot.

Regardless of what things transpire and are observed from a distance, being close to the disease is like living in a nightmare that one cannot wake from. Dementia is frightening for everyone, the one suffering from it and the ones dealing with it.

The stress of living with a stranger who looks the same as someone you once knew, loved and respected .

Memories are another cause of upset. Dementia burns away the person once known and the people who knew them “back in the day,” will find emotions swaying from support to alarm, from fond recollections to anger, and, most of all, frustration and depression.

Until one is thrust into the arena of the disease, no one can understand how unstable and uncertain life is around that individual. Trying to deal with the upset and anger while remembering what they used to be like. The sadness at seeing what their world has now become combined with the struggle to recall that there was love and a whole person in there once upon a time.

Trying to “second guess” what triggers will set them off can be a full time job. Attempting to explain to those who visit what things are like when, at the moment, they seem fine is another exercise in frustration.  A lot of time will be spent trying to fight a certain amount of doubt as to whether or not this person really does not mean the things they are saying and doing.

The world of Dementia is confusing up close. From a distance the sufferer can be seen to handle some things easily, in other words normally, and this conflicts with the picture drawn by those who deal with this day to day.  There are support groups available on the Internet, if one has access to it, and in a lot of communities. These can often provide feedback from people with a much better understanding of what living with this disease is really like.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

8 thoughts on “Dementia at a Distance and Up Close”

      1. There is also a lot of wrong doing in nursing homes. My Grandma wasn’t on the dementia ward, she wasn’t that bad. She was 96 and so her lack of short term memory may also have been to do with her age. In any case. She was different with me. We had a super special relationship and she could remember me, almost always, and remember some short term things about our chats. Love her still, to bits.


      2. My grandmother, who lived to the ripe old age of 101 also suffered from dementia, but she was not violent with it at all. My mum tells of her wanting to cuddle all the time and being very sweet. I do remember her being quite off with me on the phone once, this was in the beginning when she decided she was talking to a stranger! Mind you she hadn’t seen me in years, but she used to call me every now and then to chat! It is disturbing to see the person you remember growing up getting further and further away from themselves…


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