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 | By Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle

He Says: "She is showing signs of dementia"

Dan Says: My dear wife, Susan, is beginning to show signs of dementia. I am at my wits' end - she won't get help and I don't know what to do.

She Says: "I just forget things now and then"

Susan Says: I forget a few things but I am not crazy! Why is Dan doing this to me?

What do they do?

As we age, there are bound to be some forgetful moments because our brain chemistry changes over time. We like to think of it as nature’s way of slowing us down in our multi-tasking lifestyle.

It is not uncommon for even our daily tasks to occasionally get out of sequence, which is quite typical in a busy, hurry-up world and should not be cause for alarm or stress. It is quite possible we are just trying to juggle too many tasks at once. We are not medical professionals and will not pretend to diagnose Susan’s condition; however, if Dan believes dementia is possible, and Susan believes he is wrong, then a trip to the family doctor is an absolute must. Memory difficulties can be caused by other problems such as vitamin deficiencies or medication, and can be improved when the condition is treated or addressed.

Obviously, couples or family units who recognize a progression of symptoms should consult their family doctor for a complete medical work-up and not try to diagnose it themselves. One spouse suffering a decline in memory can have a tremendous impact on marriage and family relationships.

It appears that both Susan and Dan would do well to reorient their communication style and efforts in addressing these memory gaps. Susan may wish to begin the process of identifying possible memory gaps by keeping a log of the times she becomes confused. Dan may wish to do the same thing. After a few days, they can compare the two lists. If both lists are identical, they have reached a new understanding. If the lists are different, a gentle discussion and reconciling of the differences may help both Dan and Susan to understand the issue better.

Truth, support, love and understanding should be the top priorities. Which list is more accurate is less important than reaching a mutual understanding of the real or perceived gaps. The focus should be on how they go forward “in sickness and in health,” loving one another. This situation gives Dan an opportunity to grow even closer to Susan by helping to fill in the memory gaps and provide loving care. It allows them to re-invent themselves as a couple.

Faced with this potential life-changing situation, Dan and Susan will find strength and comfort in developing their prayer life by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, and God’s mercy for their actions and words. Calmness and sensitivity toward the others’ feelings of frustration will be very helpful. It is our experience that expressing our feelings to God about a situation or concern helps to clarify the issue; it puts the situation or concern in a whole new light. The key for Dan is to approach this new opportunity to serve the Lord by caring for Susan with love and gentleness.

If Susan and Dan can refocus on discovering what God’s plan is for them in this new chapter of their marriage, they will be better able to cope with whatever answer surfaces. God knows their future and will continue to lead them on their marital journey; Susan and Dan should in turn be open to his love as expressed through one another. Remember the prayer: Jesus, I trust in you.

Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.