Cheers, (annoyed) Doc
They don’t tell you about the hours you’ll have to spend on the phone trying to claim disability benefits for her, because the person on the other end insists that they have to speak to her personally in case, as her daughter, you’re trying to steal from her. They’re sorry, but they really do have to check with her. Regardless of the fact that she can’t remember her own name, let alone how to use a phone, because that’s how the system works.
She’s screaming that she’s going to call the police, because you’re clearly a member of the Gestapo who’s trying to poison her.
They don’t tell you about the GP’s visible annoyance when you bring her to get checked for a urinary infection for the fourth time in six months, even though that same GP advised you to bring her for regular checks. Of course she’s displaying peculiar behaviour, she has dementia, and the doctors have lots of other patients to see today. Cheers, doc.
They don’t tell you about the friends she’s had for years who gradually stop coming to visit because they “hate seeing her like that.” You’re pretty sure she hates being “like that” too, but she could really do with a friend. They’ll all be at her funeral though, because that’s what friends are for, isn’t it?
They don’t tell you how to deal with the crushing realisation that she’s never even going to be able to phone you again, let alone see you get married or become a parent. They don’t tell you how to channel the anger you feel when you realise that your fellow 30-somethings’ lives now revolve around marriage, mortgages and kids and yours revolves around a terminally ill, confused old lady who doesn’t even know who you are. Your friends have chosen their responsibilities—you’d give anything not to have yours.
They don’t tell you how to deal with discriminatory landlords who don’t want her living in their property because dementia has rendered her, in their eyes, a “threat to the community.”
They don’t tell you how to avoid laughing when she insists that you give “the kids” a bath. “The kids” only exist in her head, but you still run the bath and carry out an impressively elaborate child-bathing mime. It makes her happy, and she doesn’t have an awful lot to be happy about these days.
They don’t tell you what to say when your 67-year-old mother cries because she thinks she’s 12, and panics because she can’t find her (long dead) mother. She’s packed all her belongings and begs you to just take her home.
They don’t tell you about any of these things.
—Dawn Vance, 33, U.K.