Dementia. So painful. Having to part with the essence of an elderly parent while physically he is still there.
The anguish is great but multiplied a thousand- fold when the parent is not elderly. When he is an active father, working at a professional job, there for his kids for everything from putting the little ones to bed to giving advice to the teens. How does a child feel when he finally gains the courage to discuss the bullying that is going on at school with his father and, instead of sympathy, a feeling of validation and some good, solid advice, the response is meaningless, maybe even anger? And how does the father himself feel when, after rising to the top in his field, he finds himself at loss as to what is expected of him?
When Meir started staying at work for extra hours and still coming home with a feeling of major frustration after not having completed his assignments, and when the boss started finding fault with him on a daily basis, the red light lit up for Shuly. “The truth is that it’s hard to put a finger on when it started. It was about three years ago,” she shares. “I heard from him about his difficult feelings due to a lack of accomplishment. I felt that he was working without getting anywhere. Meir had worked for years as a senior accountant in a big company. He was a man of numbers, formulas, and calculations, and suddenly — everything was wiped out. He couldn’t remember skills he’d worked on for years. In the family realm, too, I felt that he wasn’t an active partner in the home, as I’d been used to. We were preparing for the Bar Mitzvah of our youngest son. Meir was responsible for the audio-visual presentation and he couldn’t get it done. It was very uncharacteristic of him and the experience was very frustrating. We’d been married over 35 years. I knew my husband. I immediately felt that something was awry. Since I come from the field of special education, I tested him all day and checked his cognitive level. It made him feel very miserable and, of course, lowered his self-confidence even more. We set off on a long and comprehensive round of tests that included a neurologist, psychiatrist, brain-mapping, CT, lumbar puncture… until, after close to two years, we got the final diagnosis: dementia.
. “I was transferred to a clerical position, since I was unable to do the accounting work anymore,” Meir relates. “It was really very embarrassing and unpleasant. Eventually I got to the point where I was compelled to leave my job. With time, I understood that I have to find myself occupation. There is a big vacuum, because society really doesn’t have any solutions for me and that’s where Ezer Mizion’s clubs for young dementia patients came in. There is something amazing in giving a person a group where he feels he belongs. In Israel today, there are 6,000 people under the age of 64 suffering from dementia, many with enough cognition ‘to know that they do not know’. The need is so great that a young man who participated in the club was driven by his wife twice a week from Gush Etzion to Petach Tikvah,