I’m Jennifer Bute and I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia at the age of 63 although I had already resigned as a GP because I had realised several years earlier that there was something seriously wrong.
I’m now on medication and it just made a tremendous difference to me. For many people, dementia is a bleak prospect but for me, it is a privilege and now I understand Dementia from the inside as well as the outside professionally and my father had it and I do not fear the future. My father once said death is but the turnstile that recursions one’s baggage it doesn’t alter the splendour of one’s destination because for me my faith is central. It is important to be as aware as you can about Dementia.
It all started with me getting seriously lost so I just bought a set of maps. I found out I was unable to recognize people even if I’d know them for years. Often mannerisms help more than names or faces.
Smells are my most frequent hallucination and people get used to me looking around to see who’s blowing cigarette smoke over me
I have difficulty finding my way home as all houses and roads look the same. Where I live now which has on-site dementia care, all the doors have different colours but that doesn’t help me so I have a statuette from our previous house outside the door which is a familiar thing for me.
Travel is very difficult for me is its complexity overwhelms me unless I travel with someone I trust who can cope with my distress, but even so travelling in the rush hour is a complete no-no for me.
I used to be an avid speed reader but now it does not make sense as I do not understand what some of the letters in the words mean and even words without context don’t mean anything to me. I can manage emails and Facebook and I listen to talking books. Money is a challenge as I can’t add up or subtract accurately and coins confuse, but I managed online shopping because supermarkets confuse me also.
I did not realize I had hallucinations until they all disappeared. With my team, I can usually work out what my visual hallucinations are such logically but it is useful for me to understand other people who don’t have that insight. Many sounds are also auditory hallucinations that can be worked out logically as well.
Because we don’t have children or babies living in the village where I am and other people are no longer around I tend to ignore the phone because I can’t cope with it and if the family want to contact me by phone they always prearranged it.
Smells are my most frequent hallucination and people get used to me looking around to see who’s blowing cigarette smoke over me and I will be asking what’s burning.
Filling in forms can be amusing for other people – I tend to use computer spell checks. It can take a very long time putting stamps on envelopes and can keep the post office in business! I tend to write lists that’s if I remember to read them or can find them and not recognizing one’s relatives have written can be very embarrassing.
Understanding is slow and very different to how it used to be. Cooking recipes can be beyond me, jigsaws can now be far too complex and bills might as well be in Chinese.
If I ever say pardon it probably means I haven’t a clue what on earth you’re talking about! The spiritual never dies, there are no rainbows without rain and there could be beauty in colour and shape even if the content is obscure.
I see Dementor as a gift even the same way as pain can be a useful gift in the right context. It’s a privilege to learn so much more from the inside and a glorious opportunity to explain educate and inspire you and others.