understanding dementia

Marlene Nakamoto
December 22, 2020

You just had your cellphone in your hand … where is it now? You can see her face in your mind, but who won the Academy Award for Best Actress last year? You were headed purposefully to the living room, but stop in your tracks when you get there because you can’t remember what you were going to do. 

Do you have dementia?

No. Dementia isn’t temporary confusion or forgetfulness. Rather, it’s a syndrome that severely affects cognitive abilities such as attentiveness, memory, language, logical reasoning, and problem solving. Dementia can also affect a person’s ability to control their emotions or render them unable to care for themselves. 

What causes dementia?
According to the federal National Institute on Aging, dementia is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia; the many other causes include blood disorders, traumatic brain injuries, infections of the central nervous system, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and heavy alcohol use. 

What’s the treatment for dementia?
Treatment of dementia depends on proper diagnosis of its cause, which may or may not be curable. Some forms of dementia are partially manageable, but aren’t reversible and get worse over time.

If you think that you or someone you love may have dementia, talk with your doctor about your concerns. Or visit these websites for FAQs, support services for patients and caregivers, workshops, and more:

* Circle of Care for Dementia, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i 

* Dementia Support Resources, UH Center on Aging

* Aloha Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association


It’s a funny disease dementia.
Like a thief it carries off your beloved,
Then deceptively takes flight,
Out of reach, out of sight into nowhere. 

The jewels are pawned first,
History, future, everydayness,
Never to be recovered.
Never to be,

But the cruelty is not done yet.
The real invasion comes
When life itself is stolen,
When life itself begins its retreat.
When even God cannot find your beloved.
When words only become tears. 

How can those left in the ashes,
Robbed as they are,
Forsaken as they are,
Not have hearts that turn cold and gray?
Where everyday objects are laden
With tortured memories,
Where grief is endless and barely endurable,
And where time rolls over you, relentless. 

But hearts we have, still beating, still feeling.
The great silence maybe beckoning, but not yet.
Inhale, breathe, soak it in.
Open up to what has been clouded over and neglected.
Regain your footing, give meaning to your trials,
Find strength in love. It is still out there.
And, in truth, the only way out. 

From Missing, Poems in Times like These, by A.J. Fortin 

Dr. Fortin’s wife, Betty, has dementia.

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