A Dementia Diary from our Friends

We were recently sent this diary by Annette, a friend in Farnham who had heard about the work our MD and Owner Alastair Shanks has done around dementia in the local area. Both her parents requested that these diary notes be shared and used to further the understanding of dementia patients.

Gerhard and Dorothee sharing their dementia diary

“6 October 2018: After going to bed, Dorothee leaned across to me and told me, with shining eyes: „I love you.“

They both felt that it would help carers and family members to hear from dementia patients, get a glimpse into their world and learn to understand how their minds work.

This is a diary which her father (Gerard 87) kept in the summer and autumn of 2018. Her mother (Dorothee 81) had started developing Dementia since 2016 and was officially diagnosed in the spring of 2018. In March 2018, they moved into sheltered housing where they both had difficulty settling, as they had been living in their previous flat for over 20 years. Gerard is Dorothee’s main carer and, due to his age and failing health, occasionally finds it difficult to support her in a way that best meets her needs. However, since their move into sheltered housing and his wife’s deterioration, he has become much more affectionate, loving and gentle with her than his daughter has ever seen him.
Dorothee’s father was a pastor, who died in 1984. She is the oldest of four children and had a very strict religious upbringing. Dorothee is a very good singer and has sung in choirs all her life. She has perfect pitch and not only is she able to pick out an incorrect note, but she can say which note is the correct one.

The Diary of Gerard with this wife Dorothee, Living with Dementia

Travemünde, 12.10.2018

By loving forces wonderfully sheltered,we are awaiting fearlessly what comes.
God is with us at dusk and in the morning
and most assuredly on ev’ry day.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

26. May 2018

Dorothee asked from her bed: “I have to ask you something.  Who are you? Where do you come from?” I told her that I was a man, that her maiden name was Surkau.  We married and since then her name was Dorothee Marquardt.

  1. June 2018

Dorothee asked from her bed: “Give me your dates” – “21. October 1931” – “That’s fine.”

  1. June 2018

Dorothee said from her bed: “There is another Gerhard, who comes from above.  He talks like you and disappears again.” I told her that there was only one Gerhard, who was me, and that I was always with her. Sometimes she lays the table for three people and then clears everything away without comment. There are never guests at mealtimes.

  1. June 2018

Dorothee put the kettle on a ring on the induction hob and turned it on. The plastic base of the kettle melted and the molten plastic oozed over the hob. “Has it come to this that I do such things?” She said in shock.  She then scraped the entire hob with a wooden spatula.

  1. June 2018

She sorted through several notes with information on insurance, as the information was incomplete.  Dorothee says: “Everything I have collected is of less and less use.”

  1. June 2018: Church service

We attended a service, where I could hear Dorothee sing, quiet and clear.  To her right sat a woman who could not find the words in her service sheet.  Dorothee pointed out the correct place every time. We took away a sheet of paper with dates of all future services. Dorothee wrote them all in her calendar and lives from one service to the next.

  1. June 2018:

Dorothee asks: „Are you a man?” – “Yes, I shave.”

  1. June 2018:

Dorothee says: „I have never had proper winter boots, now my father has bought me a pair.” – I replied: “Your father died over twenty years ago, we bought the lovely winter boots together in the shop with the green lettering.”

  1. June 2018:

Dorothee is holding her underwear, a bra, knickers and a vest: “Should I pot these on now?” – “Yes, that is correct.  You have to put these on every morning.”

  1. June:

Dorothee holds up her underwear: “What do I do with this?” – “Put it on the window sill and put it on tomorrow morning.” She gives me a cheerful smile.

  1. July 2018:

I notied in passing that Dorothee wanted to speak to me.  When I went up to her, she said: “Oh no, not you.”

  1. July 2018:

After we had gone to bed, Dorothee sat on the side of my bed, something which she had never done before, and told me with radiant eyes: “I love you.”

  1. July 2018:

Every day in the calendar receives a circle.  Tuesday 17 July also had a circle, Wednesday 18 Juli didn’t.  Today Dorothee said to me: “These circles mean nothing to me anymore.”

Dorothee had been given several books from her relatives for her Birthday.  She began reading a simple story and read five pages. The next day, she read the same five pages and on the following day she read the same five pages again… This saddened her.

Autumn 2017: Close to our house, the school and observatory were pulled down and the ground levelled.  Dorothee says: “There is a dog. It was here yesterday as well, it must be waiting for its owner.” When we went to investigate, we found that a tree had been felled and two stumps were leaning against each other.

July 2018, in the new flat

From our window we can overlook a large field, at the back of which there are several shrubs with yellow blossom.  Dorothee says: “Every day, there is a woman sitting there with a child in her arms. Sometimes she places the child in front of her feet.”  And: “There is a man standing behind a lectern, preaching to his congregation. He has been doing that for days now.”

  1. July 2018:

Dorothee: „You said my father was dead.  Where did he go?” – “Your father is in a place where he believed he would go.”  She looked at me with a beaming smile, which I have received frequently from her of late.

  1. July 2018:

Dorothee: „Why do I put so many things into places where we can’t find them anymore?“

  1. August 2018

Dorothee recounts a story of her son, who was stung on the finger by a wasp when he was two years old.  We took him to a chemist, who put on a plaster. On the way home, he held up his finger to every passer by and said: “Look, look!”.  Dorothee: “There are several people here who are telling the story of how Joe was stung by a wasp, also from women who come to us.” I said: “Only I know this story.  And there is only one Gerhard here and that is me.”

  1. August 2018

I say: „Where ist he other Gerhard?“ – Dorothee: “He is sitting on your chair!”

On a different day:

Dorothee: „I will lay the table for him, so that he can eat with us!“.  The third setting is always cleared away unused.

  1. September 2018

Dorothee: „My father was here and told me that he would like to work through the Book of Acts! Now I would like to read it, too.”  I gave it to her.

  1. September 2018

Dorothee: „There is a big confusion in my head, and no order anymore.“

  1. September 2018

Dorothee: „You all think I am stupid! Whatever I have put out for myself, you are moving!” I said: “Nobody says that of you, but we don’t understand you.”

2 October 2018

In the morning, after getting up, Dorothee said to me: „Something terrible has happened, something really dreadful.  The man who occasionally comes to help said to me: “I love you”. I said to him: “I love you, too”. This must never happen!  I should never have said this to another man”. I tried to reassure her and told her that this is how we had greeted each other in the morning.  It took Dorothee the whole morning to get over this thought.

6 October 2018

After going to bed, Dorothee leaned across to me and told me, with shining eyes: „I love you.“

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