Dementia is a Sad Way to Spend Your Final Days

Photo of my husband and I, with his sister, taken by author.
Laguna Woods, California
September 11, 2017 10:30pm CST
During the last eight years of my mother's life, she had slowly developing dementia which gradually grew worse. At first, my Dad started paying the bills and my mother admitted she had a little trouble remembering things. Then, three years ago, my mom and dad moved into my sister's spacious home. They had their own apartment in my sister's house, but spent most of their time in the main part of the house with my sister and her husband. My sister has owned several restaurants and is an excellent, healthy cook. She was very committed to my mother's nutrition. However, gradually, my mother lost her appetite, her ability to take care of herself and all of her memories. She became suspicious of strangers, easily frustrated and angry. Eventually, she developed congestive heart failure and died. Last week we found out that my favorite sister-in-law had also developed dementia and her son has now moved her from her ocean view home in Avilla Beach to an assisted living community in Ojai, CA. We went to visit her as soon as we returned from my mother's memorial in St. Louis. My sister-in-law has already forgotten so much! Her son moved her to assisted living when he discovered that she was getting lost driving from her home in Avilla Beach to the gates of her community, a few blocks away. She now lives in a darling cottage in her assisted living community. It is small ... about 100 apartments and cottages. However, she got lost showing us around. She kept telling us she lives across the street from the beach, although she is actually about 15 miles away from the beach now. She did not recognize most of the family members in the photos we showed her. She could not remember attending our daughter's wedding in Virginia; she didn't remember visiting us or the times we visited her; she didn't remember playing golf; she didn't remember how to play the piano. It made me very sad, even though, unlike my mother, my sister-in-law seemed cheerfully oblivious to her memory loss and what was happening outside her new community. She doesn't watch TV, knows nothing about current events, and is only interested in puttering around her cottage, chatting with neighbors and walking her dog. It was hard to see this dynamic fireball of a woman become so diminished. She is the woman sitting on the other side of my husband in the photo above. Dementia is awful. I have read that by the time we are 90, if we live that long, we have a 40 percent chance of developing dementia. By the time we are 80, we have a 10 percent chance of having it. It is very scary knowing that both my husband and I have near relatives with this horrible disease. What a terrible way to die. Have you lost a relative to dementia? Do you currently have a family member with it? If so, you and your family have my sincere sympathy.
27 people like this
24 responses
• United States
12 Sep 17
My mom was getting dementia at age 94 when she passed away last Oct. Luckily it didn't start to happen when she was younger so she was pretty alert most of the time. I have an aunt who lives in Florida who is losing her short term memory and couldn't comprehend that she had to evacuate and leave her house. It is a very sad sad disease
5 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@Marilynda1225 - The story about your aunt makes you realize how dangerous dementia can be. We have had people wonder away from home in our retirement community and, in a few cases, die. It is very sad.
2 people like this
@rebelann (42997)
• El Paso, Texas
12 Sep 17
Yes, mom had ventricular dementia brought on because of the extremely congested carotid arteries in her neck. She was 93 when she was diagnosed and we were told that because of the arteries she didn't always get enough blood flowing to her brain. He also told us that she'd need a high amount of B12 to help keep both her brain and other tissues as healthy as possible. She had a mini stroke when she was 97 and passed at 99.
4 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@rebelann - You were lucky she lived so long. My mother also got B12 shots. I think they must be important when people get into their 80s and 90s.
3 people like this
@rebelann (42997)
• El Paso, Texas
12 Sep 17
B12 is one of the most important vitamins for all of us @DeborahDiane it's necessary for proper brain function and healthy tissue throughout the body.
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@rebelann - I take B12 myself, since I know both of my parents needed the shots. I figured I would get an early start on keeping my B12 levels up.
2 people like this
@sallypup (29244)
• Moses Lake, Washington
12 Sep 17
We had my Mom with us for most of a year. Living with her almost cost us our marriage. She is not my Mom any longer; dementia has taken my Mom away from us and left us with an angry, upset child who remembers very little- my deceased brother is no longer in her mind and neither is my Dad etc. We did what we could and then let go before we had a terribly sad situation between me and my hubby.
4 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@sallypup - I understand completely. It was also hard on my sister and her husband. My mom was also an angry, upset child. Once, she hit my brother-in-law over the head with a coffee mug. It was very hard on everyone. You can only do so much for someone in this condition.
3 people like this
@sallypup (29244)
• Moses Lake, Washington
13 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane That is just terrible. Your poor brother in law. A person has only so much patience. My Mom yelled at me that she had a head condition and was in her 90s! Basically she had all the excuses and I had nothing and could do nothing. Made for a war that I had never dreamed of when I was a kid.
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@sallypup - It is so sad and can ruin the good memories we have of our loved ones. I have told friends that modern science seems to give us longer deaths rather than longer lives. I hope I don't get dementia and treat my children badly when I get older.
3 people like this
@velvet53 (17705)
• Palisade, Colorado
12 Sep 17
That does have to be very hard on everyone watching a person go through dementia. I am so sorry that your S-I-L has dementia also. The one good part is that she knows that she has problems and is content living her life with her dog and having great relatives and friends. My D-I-l's father has Parkinson's Disease and now they say he also has dementia. It has to be hard on her mom as she is the main care giver. Hospice does go to their place but they aren't there 24/7.
3 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@velvet53 - I'm so sorry to hear that. I have heard that Parkinson's Disease is a major cause of dementia. Having both makes it very hard to care for the person. Thank goodness for hospice. When he gets near the end, they will spend more time there. They had someone 24/7 the last couple of days of my mother's life. It was a blessing.
3 people like this
@velvet53 (17705)
• Palisade, Colorado
12 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane Thank you. I know that the family is wearing down especially Beckie's mom. I feel so sorry for all of them. It is tearing the grandkids up bad.
3 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@velvet53 - I'm so sorry. Let me know how it goes the next few months. It is sad the family is going through this. Sometimes I think modern medicine does not help us live longer, but make us take longer to die. It is sad.
2 people like this
@RubyHawk (30432)
• Atlanta, Georgia
12 Sep 17
Not in our family line that I know of. My sister's mother in law suffered from Alzheimer for years. She didn't recognize her children and thought her husband was her dad. But she was happy. It's wonderful when they don't realize what has happened to them.
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@RubyHawk - My sister-in-law is much happier with her dementia than my mother was. My mother was the type who became angry and suspicious. My sister-in-law seems very cheerful. Both are tragic, but it is much better to be like my sister-in-law.
1 person likes this
@RubyHawk (30432)
• Atlanta, Georgia
13 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane Yes it's sad either way but it's better to see them happy rather than angry and sad.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
15 Sep 17
@RubyHawk - I agree. It is sad either way, but at least my sister-in-law is happy.
1 person likes this
@JustBhem (44116)
• Davao, Philippines
12 Sep 17
I wonder how these people die with dementia? Did they forget to breathe?
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@JustBhem - Their brain is not working right, so they lose the ability to avoid other illnesses. Often they die of heart disease (like my mother) or pneumonia. My mother also stopped being able to swallow, so she could not eat. She lost her appetite. She needed help to do everything ... walk, eat, use the bathroom. She became very weak, frail and skinny. Eventually, her body just could no longer sustain life. It is very sad.
3 people like this
@JustBhem (44116)
• Davao, Philippines
12 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane I see. What causes dementia? Is that genetic?
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@JustBhem - There are a lot of reasons for dementia. It can result from heart disease, strokes, brain aneurysms, Parkinson's disease, Lewy's body disease, some medications, heavy drinking, smoking and some other problems. It is very common in the U.S., but not in some other countries, so they think our American diet may also contribute to it.
2 people like this
@just4him (128384)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
13 Sep 17
That sounds a lot like Alzheimer's, which my mother had. My father had mild dementia when he passed.
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@just4him - Yes, most cases of dementia are caused by Alzheimers although, of course, there are other causes, too. Whatever the cause, it is so sad to be around someone with it, especially when you have had a history of doing things together, and they cannot remember.
2 people like this
@just4him (128384)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
14 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane Yes, it is very sad. Your mother is at peace and happy now.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
15 Sep 17
@just4him - I agree. Her last few years of life were very miserable and unhappy for her. She is at peace now.
1 person likes this
@Tampa_girl7 (26737)
• United States
13 Sep 17
Sadly my dad has vascular dementia and my mom has Alzheimer's
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@Tampa_girl7 - Oh, Marie! I am sorry that your dad has vascular dementia and your mother has Alzheimers. That must be so difficult for everyone in the family!
2 people like this
@Tampa_girl7 (26737)
• United States
14 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane at times it feels like a nightmare.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
15 Sep 17
@Tampa_girl7 - Yes, I am sure it does feel like a nightmare. I'm so sorry for what your family is experiencing!
@Jackalyn (7127)
• Oxford, England
12 Sep 17
Having been an activity coordinator in a nursing home and also worked on a psychiatric geriatric Ward I've seen dementia close up and it isn't pretty.
2 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@Jackalyn - I'm sure you have seen some pretty bad cases of it. I hope they find a way to treat it, because it is such a horrible way to spend the last years of your life.
• Philippines
12 Sep 17
I'd rather die of any sickness or accident rather than living my old days with out remembering anything. In fact, there are certain life in my youth that I just don't remember anymore.
2 people like this
@peachpurple (12772)
• Malaysia
20 Sep 17
My mom had stroke many years ago, she couldn't remember the present events, what she had for breakfast, whether she took shower already but she could remember the past well. Is this partial dementia?
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
20 Sep 17
@peachpurple - Yes, that is a type of dementia. Often people cannot remember things that happened recently, but they can remember things that happened a long time ago.
1 person likes this
@peachpurple (12772)
• Malaysia
23 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane so it is called partial dementia? Would it deteriorate further?
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
23 Sep 17
@peachpurple - Most of the time dementia gets worse ... sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. It is very sad. They often die of other health issues such as pneumonia or heart disease.
1 person likes this
@dodoazo (21584)
• Philippines
18 Sep 17
This is too scary. There's a latest devopment on how dementia be prevented by the elderly. Hope this will be helpful to the senior citizens including myself for I am already 65 and turning 66 next month.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
18 Sep 17
@dodoazo - You are right. Dementia is very scary. I hope they find a way to prevent it.
1 person likes this
@dodoazo (21584)
• Philippines
19 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane I have mentioned it above. The elderly are hoping that they could be helped of that scary disease.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
20 Sep 17
@dodoazo - I think we are all hoping that dementia can be ended. No one wants to get it.
1 person likes this
@SonjaRae (4802)
• United States
12 Sep 17
My favorite uncle who I read furred to as Bapa, was more like a grandfather to me. He was a great guy always had a crewcut haircut and the most beautiful blue eyes. That plus his endearing smile always melted my heart. I saw him while visiting the Pacific Northwest after he had been placed in an assisted living facility. It was so difficult to see him in that state. He didn't know me but said I looked like someone that he used to know.
1 person likes this
@SonjaRae (4802)
• United States
13 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane I understand exactly what you mean. I will never forget looking into his blue eyes and instead of saying that twinkle that he used to have they were empty and it was so sad.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@SonjaRae - What a sad, empty feeling that must have been. It makes it hard to even have a conversation with them, when they don't have any shared memories with your anymore.
1 person likes this
@SonjaRae (4802)
• United States
13 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane I agree sweetheart it's just heartbreaking!
1 person likes this
@Deepizzaguy (15475)
• Lake Charles, Louisiana
20 Sep 17
My late mom had dementia before she passed away at age 87 in 2009.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
22 Sep 17
@Deepizzaguy - That is so sad. Seeing my mom with dementia was just heartbreaking.
1 person likes this
@Deepizzaguy (15475)
• Lake Charles, Louisiana
22 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane It is painful to see loved one fall ill to dementia.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
22 Sep 17
@Deepizzaguy - Yes, it is very painful. I hope they find a way to prevent it.
1 person likes this
@DianneN (87547)
• United States
13 Sep 17
I'm so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. Dementia is a terrible disease. I must admit, your sis-in-law sounds quite happy and looks wonderful in the photo. Was it taken earlier or in her new cottage? My grandmother passed away at 96. We were told she was beginning to get forgetful, but was never officially diagnosed with dementia. We chalked it up to old age, which it may or may not have been. She was living alone and very active in California at the time. My uncle checked on her daily. Again, my condolences on the passing of your mom. Your plate runneth over.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Sep 17
@DianneN - Thank you Dianne. I do feel a little whiplash with everything that has been going on. However, I know that everyone goes through times when things seem overwhelming, and times when things are peaceful again. The photo of my sister-in-law was taken on the patio at her retirement cottage, just a few days ago. She did seem quite happy and content. She still had her wonderful charm and graciousness, which I always loved about her. However, she didn't remember anything. We went to see her two days in a row. On the second day, she didn't remember we had been there the day before. She was completely surprised to see us. While she was very sweet, it was sad to know that she probably forgot about our visit within hours of us walking out the door. This is such a sad disease.
1 person likes this
@DianneN (87547)
• United States
18 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane How very sad. At least you visit her, which must be a blessing in itself for your own peace of mind.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
20 Sep 17
@DianneN - Yes, we are glad we visited her. I hope we go back in a few months. I always enjoyed spending time with her. I already miss her, even though she is still alive.
@Hannihar (44194)
13 Oct 17
That is horrible your mother had it and now another member of your family has it. I am no sure if my Aunt had Alzheimers or not. That is very hard for all to deal with it.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
13 Oct 17
@Hannihar - Yes, Alzheimers and other forms of dementia are pretty terrible. I hope I don't spend the last years of my life like that.
@Hannihar (44194)
15 Oct 17
@DeborahDiane Me too Deborah-Diane.
1 person likes this
@bluesa (15196)
• Johannesburg, South Africa
22 Sep 17
I am so sorry about your Mom passing. May she Rest In Peace. Yes, my Aunt's sister did and she did not even realise that her husband passed before her. This is a very scary and sad disease.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
22 Sep 17
@bluesa - I agree that it is a scary and sad disease. I hope I do not end up like that at the end of my life.
1 person likes this
@bluesa (15196)
• Johannesburg, South Africa
23 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane, me too, we should all get to treasure our memories, not lose them.
1 person likes this
• Eugene, Oregon
18 Sep 17
My mother was, by the age of 90, suffering from it too. She had lost all her daughters, had to move from the house she lived in in California to Ohio first, then Oregon and had to leave many of her possessions behind. I am sure that being displaced and losing kids can be very disorienting for anyone and contributes to dementia. It is very sad about your mother and your sister in law as well.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
18 Sep 17
@JamesHxstatic - Thanks, James. According to the researchers at UCI, by the age of 90 approximately 40% of American adults will have measurable dementia. Whenever I have friends who talk about how they want to live to be 100, I think about that statistic. I'm not sure I would want to live to be extremely old if it means I would have dementia.
1 person likes this
• Eugene, Oregon
18 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane Oh yes, I agree. That is not a good life by any means.
1 person likes this
@MALUSE (44590)
• Uzbekistan
12 Sep 17
Is it known to be hereditary?
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
12 Sep 17
@MALUSE - The underlying diseases which can result in dementia are often hereditary, especially heart disease. However, it can also be caused by Parkinson's disease, excessive drinking, smoking, some medications, strokes and many other problems. There are so many causes, and sometimes people have several different health issues which can cause it. That is one reason it is so hard to treat.
@MALUSE (44590)
• Uzbekistan
13 Sep 17
@DeborahDiane Thanks for the explanation.
1 person likes this
@marguicha (103725)
• Chile
30 Sep 17
Most seniors have memory problems sooner or later. But dementia is something else. Fortunately, I donĀ“t have any family member suffering from that.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
30 Sep 17
@marguicha - I am so glad to hear that you have no family members with dementia. It is horrible. Pray that no one in your family gets it!