A MoonShadow MoonShadow


I don’t like the word “dementia.” For me it is a medieval sounding word that carries connotations of “crazy” and “straightjackets” and “reprehensible actions” and just a certain amount of accusation – as if the person chose for this to happen.  My mom was officially diagnosed with moderate dementia over a year ago.  She has been ebbing and flowing, worsening and lessening and worsening once more as the months roll by.  What I’m witnessing with my her is not craziness but a slipping away from the moorings, a setting adrift of the persona that has to be reeled in every so often, a loss of control of the body by the confusion of the mind.

Look at the words that are associated with “dementia” via the Thesaurus:

aberration, absurdity, alienation, brainsickness, craziness, delirium, delusion, dementia , derangement, distraction, disturbance, dotage, folly, frenzy, hallucination, hysteria, illusion, inanity, irrationality, irresponsibility, lunacy, madness, mania, mental disorder, mental illness, neurosis, phobia, preposterousness, psychopathy, psychosis, senselessness, unbalance, unreasonableness, witlessness

There should be a better word to describe the illness, a more compassionate word. Dotage isn’t bad – it brings to mind Queen Victoria and lacy handkerchiefs. I kind of like the word “pixilated” (see Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – really, see it – it’s a wonderful movie).  Pixilated has synonyms that are much friendlier sounding:

Origin of PIXILATED irregular from pixie First Known Use: 1848

Synonyms: addle, addled, addlepated, bedeviled, befogged, befuddled, bemused, bewildered, bushed [chiefly Australian], confounded, confused, dazed, distracted, dopey (also dopy), fogged, mixed-up, muddleheaded, muzzy, dizzy (also pixillated), punch-drunk, punchy, raddled, shell-shocked, silly, slaphappy, spaced-out (or spaced), spacey (also spacy), stunned, stupefied, zonked, zonked-out

Reading the Wikipedia entry on pixies, I found this rather interesting:

They are not completely benign however, as they have a reputation for misleading travellers (being “pixy-led”, the remedy for which is to turn your coat inside out).  ~William Crossing, Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies, 1890, page 6.

If that is true, then I have been pixy-led very much throughout my life – just ask anyone who has traveled with me.

Nowadays though, if you tell anyone under the age of 30 that you are pixilated, they’ll assume your pixels have been scrambled (which sort of gets the meaning across in a way).  So how about  using the word “befuddled.” I would much rather be described as suffering from befuddledness than dementia.

If the media is to be believed, a great many of our generation are headed toward the diagnosis of dementia.  Boomers should petition the medical community to come up with a less harsh term.  Not to make light of the disease – it is serious and very sad, but should I end up where my mom is heading you have my permission to call me pixy-led, addlepated, befogged, confounded or even zonked and zonked-out but not demented.


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One thought on “Pixy-led

  1. I’ve been wanting to leave a reply for this, but I’ve had a too-busy week. I agree with you in general most definitely– my sister, my friend Prunella and I have dubbed my 90-year-old mother “the Chaos Pixie”, and I really do not use the D-word too often to describe her as most of her short-term memory loss and mood issues are directly attributable to the cerebral aneurysm and brain surgery she went through back in the mid-nineties. I get somewhat irritated with docs who just want to lump all elderly people with mental sketchiness together and label them “demented”. My mother is a survivor of major brain trauma, and her brain surgeon admitted up-front to us that there would be no way to tell with her as she aged what would be attributable to aging vs. the brain surgery– current medical “expertise” couldn’t even tell us post-surgery what her likely recovery-rate would be, so when her GP starts opining that “she might be developing dementia” when she is more scattered than usual, I just remind myself that there actually is no real way for the GP to factually prove that statement.

    With regard to my dad, however, the dementia-label is accurate– he has episodes of paranoia, hostility and out-right delusionality, and if he were not being medicated with a low dose of SSRI antidepressant along with his other medications, he would be completely impossible to care for in a home setting. He has so few physical resources at this point in his life that when he gets one of his too-frequent UTIs (due to prostate issues) his body can’t run both his brain and his immune system at the same time, so his cognition goes completely haywire. He gets hostile and delusional and not much gets through until the bacteria-load gets knocked down. In the meantime, he’s swearing a non-stop blue-streak, obsessing about toileting and candy, worried that he’s being chased by the mafia, insisting vehemently that my sister and I are his two long-dead brothers, and completely freaking out my mother, who requires repeated explanations and reassurance from us, as her short-term memory loss does not let her remember what we just told her five minutes ago about “why Dad is acting like this”.

    So my mother is drifty, sometimes emotionally difficult, and cannot be trusted around a stove anymore, because she is the Chaos Pixie, and my dad really is demented.

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