Further Dementia Nightmares
Susan H. McFadden and John T. McFad- den’s excellent article, “Living Longer, Often with Dementia,” from the spring
2013 edition, covers many aspects and frightening statistics about Alzheimer’s disease
and other dementia. The authors also offer
numerous helpful suggestions about how to
deal with them.
One topic of Alzheimer’s rarely reported is
the abuse that can happen between dementia patients. In 2007, my 88-year-old mother, who had
been diagnosed with AD in 2006, attacked my
92-year-old father, who had been diagnosed with
vascular dementia in the mid-1990s. He had become incontinent, and after another accident,
she savagely pushed him into the shower. He
fell, seriously injuring his back, and died five
days later from pneumonia. My mother passed
away in 2011 from AD. They had been unhappily married for 65 years, partly because of my father’s indiscretions as a young husband, partly
because of his foul temper, and partly because
of the upper hand my mother had when his
mental functions declined long before hers did.
So the unforgiving misery played out in their
elder years. I cover these sad and horrible events
in my book, Kill Me First: The Dangerous Side of
Alzheimer’s, self-published last year through
Twisted Tree Publishers.
Four medical professionals had diagnosed my
mother as a danger to herself and others. But we
were not prepared for her violence. Alzheimer’s
took away my mother’s reasoning, logic, and understanding of consequences, making her paranoid, and she lashed out. Her neurologist prescribed antipsychotics, but we could never keep
up with my mother’s increasing need for calming medications without making her comatose
and further depriving her of quality of life.
As the primary caregiver for my parents (they
lived near me in an assisted-living facility), I
learned that as the human brain deteriorates, personality changes can be extreme, especially in my
mother’s case. Many caregivers have been victimized in some way, slapped, spat at, cursed at, and
sometimes assaulted. My mother didn’t strike me
like she did my father, but often she acted out angrily at me, plus the staff trying to help her.
Yet this alarming behavior in AD patients is
never present in public discourse. I understand
The author’s parents, James and Lila McRoberts, celebrate
their wedding day on Jan. 6, 1942.
that dementia patients do not need to be stigmatized further by adding “dangerous” to the adjectives that describe them. Nonetheless, most of
the conversation about harm concerns dementia
patients being mistreated by caregivers. The
omission of the inverse in the discussion is a
The awful fact is that Alzheimer’s patients
can become belligerent, threatening, wrathful.
We must bring this to light and do whatever we
can to help protect our Alzheimer’s people from
themselves and others. When Alzheimer’s
comes along, we need to be the hero of someone else’s life.
— Karen Peck
(Oregon State University)
Retired technical writer
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the theme will be “Funny
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presidential campaigns; images
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Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In; and
unusual cases before the u.s.
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