“But He’s So (fill in the blank)!”

One of things that I absolutely despise when I mention that my father has dementia is the inevitable “but he was so intelligent” or “I can’t believe it–he is such a thinker” or “really?! Are you sure? He is such an intelligent man, he must be just scatterbrained” (yes. I’m sure. It’s not him being forgetful. Forgetful is forgetting your daughter’s birthday. Dementia is being convinced that you never had a daughter).

Yes, Apa is (was?) crazy intelligent. Yes, he was able to pick up concepts, languages, skills easier than I could pick up a coffee and chocolate. It does not negate the fact that he has dementia. It does not change that he has a disease that affects the brain.

There seems to be some implicit presumptions that if it affects the brain, that if one has a mental illness, it’s somehow that person’s fault (do not get me started on depression and anxiety). It’s not Apa’s fault; he did everything “right” and he still developed PART. Do not blame the person just because it’s not visible.

I’m often reminded of that passage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry asks Dumbledore if what he is experiencing is in his mind. Dumbledore answered that of course, but why should that be any less real? Just because the illness is in the mind, just because we cannot see it, doesn’t make it any less real. It also certainly does not make it the person’s fault.

We do not blame a pianist who loses the function of their hands because they had bone cancer, do we? So why doubt when someone who is a Renaissance man and pretty much a certified genius developed dementia, which robbed them of the function of their brain?

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