Sunday, December 12, 2010

Exile of the Mind

Have you ever had a loved one in your life that just seemed to suddenly slip away deep into the unknown recesses of their mind? One day they are alive and present -- and the next they don't seem to resemble the person you know and love.
Why? Age? Surgery? Illness? Accident? This happens more often than we would like to think about. And sometimes it can be sooner than a family expected -- and not due to aging. There seems to be a link between excessive stress or traumatic life events that can cause a loved one to sink into an untimely disappearance to the exile of the mind.
"A number of authors have suggested a possible link between life traumatisms and the dementia* processes. The aim of this study is to reveal the presence of life traumatisms preceding the apparition of the dementia syndrome.
[The study] includes 565 patients presenting the criterion of dementia as defined by the DSM IV, and questionnaires filled out by the principle caregivers. One item of the questionnaire referred to life events played a part in which could have the development of the disorder. In a second stage, the reported events were classified into 4 distinct categories: loss, repeated or prolonged stress, psychotraumatism and depression-inducing events."
The above is only one excerpt from many articles that exist on this topic. Such information gives credence to my hunch that repeated and prolonged stress, or traumatic life events can cause a person (who finds no other solace in their daily lives) to retreat to the reluctant exile of the mind.

(*If the condition has been present less than 6 months and had a more acute onset it is termed delirium.) 

What can be done to help a loved one recover? Every case is unique of course, and only a medical professional can determine whether your loved one is experiencing dementia or delirium. However, your familiar, reassuring, and watchful presence is one of the most valuable things that can happen in the recovery. As you wait for your sick loved one to get better, you accomplish a lot by supporting them. It is also crucial to minimize anything that could further stress or confuse your loved one. Also it is important to quickly tell hospital/hospice staff if you notice uncharacteristic changes or behaviors. Then, it will take time and patience in the anticipation of recovery. You can be a welcomed familiar face -- whenever your loved one is able to return from the exile of the mind.