Knowing You Don't Know
Mom’s memory is getting worse and she is becoming more confused. Mom, again, today was looking for her porcelain dolls which are at her friends house and have been there for weeks. However today Mom was sure that the dolls were still at home and we needed to take them over to her friend. Both Dad and I told her numerous times that the dolls are not here and her friend has them. Mom looks at us, confused, and says “Why can’t I figure this out?”
It is hard to watch her go through this because Mom knows she can not remember, she knows she can not understand. She will repeat back to you what you just said and yet the reality of the situation does not make sense to her. She says yes, the dolls are at her friends house, and we have to get the dolls out of the basement to take them to her friend.
This middle stage where the person with dementia knows they can’t remember is hard. You see in their eyes how much they want to remember and how frustrating it is for them to know their mind is not correct but there is nothing they can do about it.
We knew this would happen, this is the way the disease progresses. But you do not really know what it is like until you get there. What actually happens to the mind with dementia is hard to explain and unless you have experienced it, you might not quite get what I am describing. It is a combination of not knowing and knowing that you don’t know. You understand that you do not understand.
Mom says that knowing she does not know something allows her to hang on to the rest of the world. In a way it is comforting to her because it shows her that she still has a grasp on reality in some way. She is very worried about the day when she does not know that she does not know.
I can see the many challenges that Mom’s worsening dementia will bring to her individually and to our family as a whole and I wonder how we will handle it. Will we have the patience, the time, and the emotional strength to care for her? How will she take it when she loses this grasp she has on reality and no longer knows she does not know? There are a lot of unanswered questions in our future.