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.