Prominent woman's dementia announcement - could that be you?

Only a few days ago prompted by recent significant historical news cycles I began reading a book I have had for years titled "The NINE - Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin".  Have not gotten that far into the book, and was reading just on Monday night about the first female Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who retired from the high court in 2006.  Her achievements and the laws she helped enact are an incredible contribution to our everyday lives and in helping our society enjoy many privileges. 

Today the news in which she announced a diagnosis of dementia was very disappointing. She has decided not to do anymore public appearances. Having such a voice leave the public discourse is quite a loss.

We are taught that the word dementia is a general term and not the actual disease. Instead various diseases such as Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, but not the most common form.

This is a devastating illness which sometimes develops very slowly as it affects a person through the three different stages (Early Stage, Middle Stage, Late Stage). The subject of dementia is vast and symptoms even misdiagnosed at times. So it is always important to see a trained professional. There are some treatments although no cure as yet. We will remain hopeful for research to continue.

Dementia is of growing concern to our aging population. Investors are taking note  as more memory centers are being built or, nursing homes are adding wings to their facilities. You will need trained, qualified workers to assist you, if you end up in a facility, or even if you are able to remain in your own home.

The care of someone with dementia needs extra patience, love, caring, skill and understanding. We have to remember that these wonderful individuals may say or do something embarrassing or dangerous. We must immediately be able to recognize that they are unaware of their actions. That is painful for loved ones to see.

Staying in your own home is a great option if you can have paid in home health care, or family is able to handle your responsibility. It is always best to be in the surroundings one is accustomed to, and with people you know. If you are caring for a dementia patient at home see if you have a support center near you such as this one.  The information sessions are free.

An individual with dementia may hide their belongings and suggest otherwise. Or they may refuse to bathe. Caregivers are trained to handle these situations and can assist immensely. A person with the symptoms of dementia may be unable to speak, or care for their daily needs but can totally understand what you are saying. 

From one moment to another though that person who just followed your instructions may forget how to eat and have to be reminded. Staying at home is possible with good in home health care and is preferable. One may wander away so the need for vigilant caregiving is imperative.

We are told that no one quite knows how we get dementia except that sometimes it is genetic. We are also told that in order to perhaps help ourselves avoid this affliction we should be getting the right amount of sleep, eat a balanced diet and certainly avoid heavy alcoholic drinks, smoking and the other detrimental intake elements. We owe it to ourselves to try, and give ourselves a chance.

There are research avenues if you feel you may need to get a base line memory check. See if an organization such as Bioclinica is in your area.

Don't despair if you forgot where you put your keys. We all do so sometimes.

Have you heard of the peanut butter test for Alzheimer's? Check the Resources page under the menu.


Ruth Y. Webster

-Caregiver Daze






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