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Dreaded Dementia

“Once a man, twice a child”

I was just finishing up my last blog and thinking about what to do next. Then duty called. 

My wife Sylvia suffers from dementia. She is very much like a child inside her mind. It is a terrible thing to experience. The woman who once was a rock is now my cross. When watching somebody with dementia one must always be ready to go into action.

At this moment I smelled something stinky. Sure enough there was an unpleasant surprise in Sylvia’s diaper. So I drop everything and take her into the shower and clean her. Her having a bowel movement or fear of a bowel movement is a great factor in my life. It hampers the places that we go as in the worse case scenario things can get very messy! I don’t believe that a restaurant would appreciate such an unwanted gift. Also there is the matter of cleaning her.

All said and done our life together is much easier. For about a year Sylvia was resistant to seeing  a psychiatrist. As a result she wasn’t taking any medicine to calm her mind down. She would go wandering all around our town. It got to the point where she couldn’t read the street sign to tell me where she was. Finally she couldn’t even use the phone. Fortunately at that time Sylvia agreed to  see a psychiatrist and things got better.

During that year I had many run ins with the police. At first this was a little difficult as they didn’t understand what was going on.  “Where are you going?” the police would ask Sylvia. “Saint Pauls” would be her answer. The police would think she was trying to get to a church named “Saint Paul”. At this point in the conversation I would interject and say “Ask her what country that is in.” When they did and she answered “Grenada” which was her homeland the situation deescalated. It got to the point that whenever the police saw us  they understood the situation.

It was a horrible experience knowing that Sylvia was out there wandering on her own not in her right mind. If I brought her home she would go out and wander after a few minutes. Driving her in my car calmed her down. So we would take long rides everyday, sometimes over a hundred miles. During this time I would relax and think about the stories I was writing. It helped my writing to a certain extent.

One time Sylvia disappeared on a snowy day. I called the police as soon as I realized she was missing. After a very agonizing hour I got a call back. Sylvia had wandered a couple of miles into the neighboring town. There the police picked her up and brought her to the local hospital.

Now my biggest problem with Sylvia wandering is her going into the kitchen. I have the kitchen blocked with a chair but sometimes she sneaks in. I am going to get something more permanent soon. In the kitchen Sylvia is out of sight. I worry about her falling and also touching the stove. She tends to turn the gas controls thought I have taken the dials off. Also she grabs the burners and I fear that she might break them.

Still considering everything I am much better off. Because I have mental illness and I have been out of touch with reality I can relate to what is going through Sylvia’s mind.

I talk about Sylvia and my experiences with her among other things in my latest poetry book “Polishing The Fragments”. What do you do when God shatters your life? You begin “Polishing The Fragments”.

Dreaded Dementia

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2018). Dreaded Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jan 2018
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