Dementia and Learned Helplessness

So much of what has led to my sister’s dementia and her particular situation is the result of learned helplessness. She, like so many people, gave up easily when confronted with anything that was challenging. For instance, many years ago she told me that she never reconciled her checkbook with her bank statement. Instead, she always rounded upward in the ledger of her checkbook the amount of any check she wrote and figured that way she would never get overdrawn on her account. I was surprised that she would have way over $20,000.00 in a regular checking account, but a passive person would do just that.

She also was fatalistic about aging. Her youngest daughter told me that my sister expected to die before the age of 70 because that is what happened to our parents. So she would refer to things as “My Last”, last car, last cat, etc. At age 75 she went to live with a daughter in Tennessee, thinking that is where she would die. After two years she returned to Maine because she was bored and unable to drive herself anywhere because she didn’t have a car to use. Her 80th birthday was no joy for her even though we tried to make it a celebration.

I try to tell people “You are never too old to re-invent yourself”. Without a vision for yourself as you age your default setting will be to slip into learned helplessness, depression and dementia.

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.