Vanishing In Front Of Our Eyes: The Cruel Nature of Dementia
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Lockdown and the long-standing effects of Covid have been extraordinarily difficult for a whole raft of different reasons: losing the freedom we enjoyed so casually before; millions losing their jobs and their incomes as Covid decimates industry after industry; being cooped up within the confines of our own homes with no IRL social interaction with friends and family for an eon. All of this has accumulated, snowballing to make the past 10 months some of the most challenging we will ever (hopefully) have to endure.
However, one of the most harrowing parts has been watching the acceleration of my beloved Grandad's descent into the murky folds of dementia. A man who holds such a special place in my heart: who used to read us bedtime stories, talk freely to anybody he walked past on the street and who you could guarantee would know every single shop worker in at least a 5 mile radius of his house.
Lockdown forced him into himself: he became increasingly depressed and agitated. His depression at one point was so bad that he used to break down and cry, an unbearable sorrow compounded by an inability to sleep, causing him to ebb to dark places. He became fixated on things that normally he wouldn't have thought twice about - on one occasion he was so distressed by me moving a dusty trophy on a cabinet that he would not let me forget about it, causing big guilt-filled tears to spring out of my eyes. Watching bargain hunt and recording contestant's scores became an obsession, tuning into pop-master on BBC Radio 2 became a habit that could not be broken and he would get stuck on endless cycles of needing to know where Delhi was, or how to spell "squirrel," or what DBS stood for as he'd seen it on a leaflet in the park.
That is the cruel thing about dementia. It slowly erodes the part of the person that once shone. It is not simply a case of your brain becoming shrouded in fog and things becoming muddled - although it is very much this too - it is much subtler, more nuanced. Dementia causes all these strange personality traits to come to the fore, shifting the once thoughtful, caring and mellow person you grew up loving fiercely.