A new pencil is a very useful instrument – long, slim, and full of lead, sharpened and ready to put important things (or useless things) down on a sheet of paper; an untouched eraser at the end also ready for use. A new pencil is like a “new lease on life” – ready to begin again with new thoughts, new words, new information, to be shared (or not shared) with others; at times stopping to sharpen the point, but still a useful instrument. The eraser is always on stand-by to clear the ideas or words written in error.
But, a broken pencil is of no use (or is it?). The lead inside breaks apart and shortens the life span of the pencil, the pieces so small that they become useless pieces of garbage. The eraser, even though yet untouched, is of no use unless the pencil marks are there to be erased. A new pencil is needed to put those thoughts and words onto paper – “a new lease on life.”
A new pencil? A broken pencil? What do these have in common; and what do they have to do with memory loss – or do they have anything to do with it?
A brain is an instrument to be used, in some way much like a pencil. The brain is sharpened by learning, reading, studying and filling it with all kinds of “lead” or thoughts, ideas, trivial stuff that one day may come in handy. Once “sharpened”, this instrument can be very useful to us in ways unimaginable. A brain also has a built-in “eraser”, or the ability to change our mind or thoughts if that becomes necessary.
But a “broken” brain – one destroyed by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease*, Vascular dementia*, or other diseases and health conditions, or damaged in an accident – is of no use (or is it?). A “broken” brain is difficult to use in the same ways as before the damage. A “broken” brain needs to be re-trained; re-sharpened. New ways of learning and remembering need to be discovered, like writing things or visual reminders to help the memory process.
There are many ways to help one remember things. Those suffering from the disease and their caregivers can always work together to help discover these ways, and how they can best be used in their particular situation.
BUT… That brings up the problem that exists for us, and may also exist for others:
The one suffering from the disease/dementia, the one with the memory loss, must admit or acknowledge that there is a problem before the two can work together! There lies the problem in our situation.
If the person afflicted with the disease denies that there is anything wrong, a whole new set of problems may arise! How is it possible to work out new ways to remember things if you don’t think you forget them in the first place!!?? Needless to say, this puts a lot of stress on the caregiver. And this caregiver is trying to deal with that situation, but it really isn’t easy!
(This piece was written some years ago as we were beginning our journey with Dementia’s Demands! I must say, it has been quite the journey! Finally – he admits to the hearing problem, and a possibility of some memory loss – but he covers it up as often as possible in both instances. Well…on we go with the journey!).
*Note: For more information on Dementia, click here.