The Nuances in Dementia

I’ve come to understand that my sister has vascular dementia. This is the result of an ischemic stroke which cuts off the blood supply to a part of the brain but doesn’t affect her appearance. Instead, it resulted in aphasia, difficulty in retrieving words from her vocabulary, especially names of people or important things. For instance, when we would visit her in Bangor, we would take her out to eat at a restaurant. She could give us very clear directions to get there by saying “ take your next left” or “turn here”, but she could not tell us to take Essex Street or Broadway. She can’t retrieve my husband’s name, Chuck, so she refers to him as “your husband” or just “him”. She doesn’t at all mind me finishing her sentences for her, unlike my husband. Finishing sentences is a habit of mine, a good one in her case; an annoying one in my husband’s case.

When she first arrived, she would get disoriented with the many rooms in my house. I felt panicky not knowing the many aspects of her dementia. She also has atrial fibrillation and takes a form of Coumadin for that and has to be closely monitored with blood tests. I worried about her ability to handle living on two floors and going up and down stairs. At first she kind of hauled herself up the stairs using the balusters on the stair railing to pull herself up. It was good cardio exercise for her and, now, four months later, she goes up and down with no difficulty. Sometimes she surprises me by bringing a basket of laundry with her.

Her dementia seems to have stabilized. At first she was adjusting to the trauma of finding out that her daughter had stolen all her money and the sudden relocation. I was going through my own re-adjustment to the changed circumstances. At this point I have learned to relax and not try to micro-manage her. She has learned that she is safe, accepted, and cared for. Two great blessings she has discovered are a screened sun porch and an extremely loving cat. She and the cat while away the pleasant summer days on the porch, both of them asleep most of the time.

Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.