Suzy Hazelwood

The Worst Part Of Loving Someone With Dementia

We sold your home. It feels like a betrayal. We filled boxes with things you no longer need, things you’ve collected over the years, and ordinary things one needs to live an ordinary life—pots and pans, measuring cups, coffee cups, cleaning supplies, and such. We wrote your name in your clothing like you were going to summer camp. Your shrinking world became a tiny studio apartment in a memory care unit. All the belongings that made your house your home are scattered like clues in a scavenger hunt. Strangers bought your lovingly used items. Clues are tucked away in our closets and attics or discarded all-together.

Sixty years of greeting cards, love letters, newspaper clippings, and memories that filled your home now fill a shoebox. It feels like a betrayal. We sorted through your life story and picked and chose what to keep and what to toss away. Who were we to decide their value? A birthday card loving signed by your husband didn’t make the cut because there were 60 more just like it. It could have been your favorite. We’ll never know.

We visit you in memory care and sneak out so you don’t try to follow us out the locked doors. It feels like a betrayal. You’re clutching your purse and have your jacket on. “This is a nice place to visit, but I’m ready to go home,” you say. You want to go home to a house you no longer own and live a life you lost years ago. Even with family pictures on the wall and your favorite comforter on your bed, you know this isn’t your home.

Our visits are short. It feels like a betrayal. Time has no meaning—five minutes, five hours, it’s all the same. Our talk is small—meaningless words strung together to fill the empty space. You smile as you tell us about your adventurous day, and you believe every word, but we know it’s a story dementia whispered in your ear. We never let on we know the truth.

We return to our busy lives until our next visit. It feels like a betrayal. Before dementia whisked you away, you were ours. We heard your voice on the phone every day. “Hey, Hun. It’s just Mom.” Our phone doesn’t ring anymore.

Dementia wrapped us up in its betrayal: “Look what you’ve done to your sweet mother.” It tried to turn our love for you into something sinister as it led you into peril, but our steadfast love keeps you safe. Our love will never betray you.