Caregiving Vignettes: “How His Dementia Delusions Have Progressed Over Time”
The first signals of my husband’s dementia were a change in his personality. I didn’t know what was wrong with him. And, it wasn’t all the time. You know, it’s kinda like you take your car to the shop and tell the guy about the problem your car is having… only it is making that clunking sound… sometimes. Of course he will drive your car around the block and call you to report that it didn’t happen. That happened with my car a couple years ago and I told my dad about it. My car was actually cutting out and sometimes if came to a complete stop. I took him out driving with me to show him what it was doing and when the engine cut out completely and I had to restart it at a busy intersection my dad said calmly in his low gravely voice “Ok, now, let’s drive on down and take the first left.” He was giving me directions to drive right to the auto dealer to get me a new car.
Well, you can’t trade your husband in with intermittent behavioral symptoms though I am sure that there are many who want to because sometimes they seem temporarily intermittently insane.
Behavioral frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), as opposed to the more common Alzheimer’s, doesn’t cause memory loss in the beginning. Through my research on dementia, I find that the bottom line if there is one is… different people experience the progression differently. I will try to briefly outline here the progress of his bvFTD from the beginning so that there can be something perhaps to compare to. There are so many areas of progression but I will begin with delusions. So, this blog post will be one of several covering the different areas of his life that have been effected by his dementia.
Progression over time of my husband’s delusions:
Delusions have been from the very beginning. In 2006, I thought the fears he was experiencing was because he was captivated by the tenor of the right wing news he had begun watching involving the presidential election. We couldn’t even discuss politics any more after that and I happened to be a registered independent yet with conservative views. Before that, he was a democrat. Not any more. He became a right winger. He went from liberal democrat to right wing conservative. He passed out at the office and was carried out on a stretcher shouting “Don’t let Obama kill me”. Everyone was gathered around and a little snicker went around. But, it made me mad. Of course I didn’t know he had a debilitating brain disease that was beginning to take hold of his personality and behavior. The passing out was because he drank too much alcohol and not enough water.
In 2014, when his delusions became more frequent and dominant, he still had the ability to go on his computer and his tablet and his cellular phone where he was researching electric bicycles. In 2015 when he had to give up driving, he developed a strong delusion that we were opening up an electric bicycle shop and had shipments in our garage. Having the delusions is one thing, but what they did to our family is another. He was on the lookout for the bicycle shipments, and thought I was withholding information from him. So he was angry at me about it and that led to him thinking I was against him.
He is more confused about reality now than delusional, athough yesterday he thought we had some GI’s that would be joining us for dinner. Is that delusional? I don’t know, I’m no expert. It’s weird stuff for sure that we deal with on a daily basis. My daughter answered him, “Oh, that’s so nice. Maybe you’d like to go rest up while you wait.” And, when he came in for dinner it was all forgotten. She’s homeschooling 11th grade and getting on the job dementia psychology training, I think. Well done.
In 2017 he began a confusion with memories of his time aboard the Forrestal, a ship during VietNam that caught fire. It was big. But my husband’s memories became larger than the already big catastrophe. He became more and more confused about his war service. He began wearing his father’s army war medals from WW2 on his shirt. I figured out it was best to take away all of the war memorabilia because it caused him so much continued suffering, especially that it caused him to repeat events that didn’t even happen to him. He stopped this dreadful memory pattern right away when I finally figured out this was happening.
Most of the delusions seem to be a result of actual problems in his life. I think he possibly invents the delusion to help him get through. The delusions, however, cause him greater anxiety and creates a difficult living atmosphere (to say the least).
I wrote a blog post on “The Yellow Book” that describes how it has been a helpful tool to us through many of these difficult times.
I was thinking recently that it’s good he has us to take care of him. What would happen to him otherwise? I wonder how many people with behavioral dementia just get thrown on the junk heap like a defunct automobile. I wonder how many of them are on the street, severely alcoholic. I wonder how many seem like they are mentally ill.
Can’t just trade ‘em in.
I was also thinking… always thinking!… that it’s good we have him to take care of. One day I will write about that. But, be looking for blog posts related to his dementia progression over the years.