Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Visitors from Another Planet

A few days ago, Mummy had visitors. This was a great thing. It afforded her an opportunity to converse with others in a way that frankly, she cannot or does not, converse with us. What I had no way of knowing though, was that at several points during the course of the day, she had no idea who the people were. So while, 'conversation' was occurring, it wasn't real.

One of the frightening realities of this ailment is that time has no real meaning. Whereas for the fully compos mentis, we are able to hold on to a particular time frame in our heads (without any effort), for the dementia patient, time seems more fluid. At any moment of the day the patient can be in the past or the present. Time isn't fixed and no longer flows in a linear manner, so while I was thinking that Mummy was having a grand time with old friends from home, what I later discovered was that she was sitting there smiling, and asking herself who the hell these people were.

Mummy is the one who once told me that we see ourselves as we were at some specific point in the past. We were at the time, talking about someone who was wearing some unfortunately tight outfit. Barbara's explanation was that the person had a mental image of themselves that no longer matched the actual. But, Barbara went on to point out, what we see in the mirror isn't necessarily what's there, but sometimes, what we've always seen. So this individual was probably 20 lbs heavier than she thought she was and was dressing for the lower weight. Hence the unfortunate outfit. Transposing that thinking to our present circumstance, when Mummy looks at her friends today, she sees faces that look familiar but she still expects them to be as they were 20 years ago (because time isn't for her, what it is for us). So their voices sound familiar, the information they share sounds familiar, but there is a significant disconnect between the look of them and whatever remains in her head as her expectation of what they should look like. She 'remembers' them as they were back then and expects them to be that way now.

When you add to that the lost ability to see time linearly and what you have is a life of moments. Some in the present, some in the past. Perhaps even some in a time yet to be?

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