Sunday, October 10, 2010

Encore: Can Dementia Ever Be Funny?

The inspiration for this post and for my book, "Dementia Diary, A Caregiver's Journal," was a talk that I gave to a conference for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias. The speakers included a psychiatrist, a geriatrician, and a panel of four caregivers--one of whom was me.

I learned a lot that evening. The presentations and audience questions taught me that the kinds of bittersweet anecdotes I described about my mother's dementia are the common lot of all who deal with the reality of dementia in a loved one.

And surprising (to me at least) the audience found many of the anecdotes that I reported to be hilariously funny. Many had experienced the same kinds of behavior with their own loved ones with dementia. It was clearly a relief for them to hear these stories spoken aloud.

It helped them to realize they were not alone, and so they laughed--laughter that was unexpected but very welcome--laughter that helped to reduce the tension of these caregiver's daily caregiving stress...and they suggested it would be helpful for others to be able to read about my caregiving experiences with my mother.

It is my wish that caregivers will see beyond the sadness, tragedy and, yes, comedy sometimes associated with the evening hours of life, and will recognize that dementia, while terrible, does not diminish the essential humanity of the afflicted individual.

(This is an encore article originally published June 2008)

Bob Tell
Dementia Diary, A Caregiver's Journal