It is now we must face dementia directly, honestly and with greater compassion. As professionals dedicated to the care of persons with dementia, we owe it to them and to their family caregivers. To do any less is not compassion, but cruelty. In what other disease do we retreat into myth and fear?
These are diseases of the brain. I have been told by professional caregivers the reason a person with dementia behaves the way they do is witchcraft, voodoo, and possession by the devil. That alone should call us to action.
Where is compassion in allowing families to struggle in a quagmire of stress, grief and confusion? Fear where we should teach approach, guesswork when we know the devil’s name and brain location, cruelty and death documented again and again because we won’t respect the disease process. Do we pretend otherwise when it is necessary to task a family with reality? Any other terminal disease would have us prepared to explain the process, to ease their fears, to be the professionals.
Our responsibility to those under our care does not end because we did our very best. It does not end in death. We can never lose sight of those still remaining, nor turn from the human link of support and comfort we provide.
Tam Cummings, PhD, Gerontologist