Dementia: It’s the Environment Stupid!

I made a classic error last night and caused Maureen untold distress.  The film ‘Side Effects’ was on the TV and I had missed it when it was on the cinema a couple of years ago.  At that time is was very pertinent to my voluntary role as Facilitator to the Anxiety and Depression Support Group at Clee Medical Centre.  I couldn’t believe my luck that a film I wanted to see would be available in my living room.  I had no idea that my personal interest would cause such problems later in the night and early this morning.

Maureen soon expressed her concern about the nature of Side Effects by asking: ‘Is this the best that is on?’  She persevered with her question and it became obvious that the topic of the film was causing distress.  I  looked for other options via the remote and could find little of interest; so I removed myself to the dining room to continue watching the film in there.  Maureen followed me and said: ‘I thought we were spending the evening together’.  After a short while we returned to the lounge to continue watching the film, sat next to each other on the sofa.

It took me a while, and a doze, to realise that the film was unsuitable viewing.  Maureen had already expressed concerns and now she doing something very unusual: scanning a newspaper.  As I had lost the plot during my doze I switched the T V over to ‘Match of the Day’.  When I had seen a couple of matches I called time out and suggested we went to bed.  This is when I began to pay for my stupidity.

To cut a long story short Maureen became very confused at my suggestion to retire to bed.  She returned to a familiar racket:  ‘this is not our house – I have nowhere to sleep – I sleep alone’ etc etc.  Just to be on the safe side I put myself to bed in the spare room.  I slept well until 3 am when I heard Maureen wailing in the other room.

I entered the marital bedroom with great caution; fabricating that I had just returned from a visit to the bathroom. Maureen told a haunting tale of being kidnapped and brought to a strange house by a wicked man.  She had fears that he would drug us and all sorts of evil things might happen.  Within her story were elements of  last night’s film: ‘Side Effects’.

So a short message to myself here: ‘It’s the Environment Stupid’.  Day after day, hour after hour, I need to remember that my wife has dementia.  Minimising distress is my focus – not causing it!  Television programmes, just the same as any other input, need to be dementia friendly: even watching the news here is risky!

From now on I intend to post one blog a day at around 8 am.  So this is it for today folks.

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