Dementia: the Cruel Disease 1 – A Friend

Today we begin a short series on this cruel affliction. Back in March we put up the first article but got distracted by other issues and news items. So here is a reworking of that first article and this time there will be follow up!

Taking opportunities

By Roger Childs

The first dementia survivor is out there. An advertisement in Oakland, California

The editors were very fortunate a few years ago, being able to take a dementia patient out for walks once a week. (Alan also took him for swims.)

He was in the dementia wing of a local retirement home, but because he was very fit he liked to get out for breaks.

It was our honour and privilege to accompany him on strolls for an hour or more. He became our close friend and we always enjoyed the experience of the walk and talk which often ended in a cafe such as The Marine Parade Eatery, Mitre 10, Novella  or The Windmill.

Alan and I never had any problems when were out with him: it was a pleasure to be in his company. He would sometimes salute and call me skipper!

A local with a memory for things way back

He had lived in Paraparaumu for many years and had run, fished and learned to fly in the area.

He could recall these experiences vividly, but recent events were hazy.

He had problems remembering names and what happened last weekend, but ask him about his time in the navy and early years in Taranaki, he had great recall.

Also, we were constantly surprised about some of the information he could remember.

He had vivid recollections as a young naval rating of witnessing the British hydrogen bomb test on Christmas Island in 1958.

A few years ago he went AWOL and was on a mission.

The boys in blue come up trumps

The police tracked our friend down and the conversation went something like this.

Good morning


Where are you heading?

I want to find my wife’s grave.

Do you know where it is?

Yep, it’s in Valley Road.

Hop in, we’ll take you there.

So our friend got in the police car and they took him up to the Cemetery.

He quickly found his wife’s grave, put some flowers on it and the police delivered him back home.

The boys and girls in blue can get a hard time, but they often perform excellent and, sometimes, unexpected public services.

The reality of dementia

He loved the beaches

You probably know folk who have, or had this unforgiving affliction. Brain cells are progressively lost and not replaced.

Deterioration is inevitable, but the speed at which it occurs varies greatly. Our friend was always frustrated when he couldn’t recall things and as time went on the memory loss became greater.

It was incredibly sad to see him going downhill. One day I turned up at the unit and found that he had been moved down to Porirua and I never saw him again.

However, I have unforgettable memories of a decent, talented and honourable citizen of the Kapiti community

(More on the symptoms and nature of dementia the second article.)



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