The young woman was upset about her mother. “Mom bought me a house a few years ago, and believe me, I’m grateful,” she said to the advice columnist. “But I’ve had some financial setbacks, like losing my job in the recession and having to file bankruptcy. I’m doing the best I can to pay Mom back, but the other day she complained to my aunt about my financial dependency. I can’t believe my mother revealed this confidence. She’s normally so private. I’m worried she’s starting to show signs of dementia.”
The advice columnist responded, “She might just be resentful about your financial situation, and kept it to herself all these years. But definitely try to get her to go with you to her doctor,” she said. “Have her get a full checkup…”
I don’t like what you did. I think you need to see your doctor.
Maybe some of us DO get old and cranky, and maybe we shoot our mouths off about not wanting to be doormats any more. Maybe we’ve seen enough bad behavior by this point that we’re way less tolerant of it, and we’re comfortable saying so out loud. How convenient to assume we’re losing our marbles.
Impending dementia provides a handy explanation for discomfiting behavior. (For younger people, we cluck that they “may be bipolar.”) Neither assessment should be made casually. If you see something, observe without panicking, and if there’s a pattern over time, discuss it privately with a professional. If you receive guidance to take it further, so be it. But don’t jump into it haphazardly.
Humans like to control their environment. A crabby senior might look like a candidate for muzzling but tread carefully. An irresponsible charge of dementia can cause us to resent you and begin second-guessing ourselves. Life is fast-moving and complicated these days. Plenty of people forget things, sound stupid, or lose their tempers. Ageism alert: if you wouldn’t accuse a young person of dementia in a certain situation, don’t accuse an old person of it either.
Please don’t be mad at me. I swear I’m in my right mind. Such as it is.