Posted by: Nancy | May 8, 2010

The long reach of confusion

When confusion touches one member of a family, I’m convinced it affects everyone in the family.

I’ve seen it firsthand in my family under a couple of different circumstances. In his later years, my father was afflicted by a form of dementia, and it changed not only him, but also my mother, brothers and sister and me. My younger sister recognized it quickly and accepted it the easiest: “Sometimes he doesn’t know me,” she said matter-of-factly one day. She was right.

Later, near the end of her time, my mother also lost much of her memories and most of her capability to make good decisions. Slowly, she retreated into herself, her interests diminished.  But even in her foggy state, she was able to give me advice. Near the end, I was visiting her, and told her of an upcoming, exciting trip I was planning to Brazil and Argentina. “Well, just don’t get lost,” she said firmly. It made me laugh at the time, but it was still good advice — and it told me she still knew me and still cared about me.

Now, I’m starting to see the confusion touching another member of the family — my sister. It’s the unmistakable loss of short-term memory, diminishing her capacity to react and make decisions. It’s like watching a slow retreat, a slipping-away, a loss of focus that’s frightening.

But it’s frightening only for those of us around the situation — I don’t think it’s frightening at all to my sister herself. She’s happy, cheerful, laughing, mostly content with her days.  As she always has been. I don’t see any fear in her; so what brings the rest of us fear?


As one who studies change, I’m watching this “case study” with particular attention (I’m part of it, after all). But my measured assessments of the situation are filtered through my own emotions — and my own fear.  I can see the various reactions to change in others. There’s the reluctance to accept it (we can wait), the desire to avoid it (she’s still happy and healthy). I can see my own reactions.

I note that change brings lessons worth relearning, now that I’m face-to-face with my own emotions. We’re human, and we react to change with our emotions first, and with our intellect second. Emotion is the stronger influencer; I have to recognize it, accept it, embrace it and give it it’s due.

My new task list: Take heart, Have courage, Be strong, Go forward.

UPDATE May 14, 2010: Found a great post that gives another view, with a nice bit of useful wisdom for a lot of situations — instead of focusing on what’s lost, find joy and pleasure in what remains. Check it out at the KevinMD blog.


  1. […] I’m reprinting one here: The Long Reach of Confusion […]

  2. […] The Long Reach of Confusion […]

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