Joanna Lumley is taking the trans siberian railway on knowledge tv tonight and stops at lake baikal. She visits a family at a water-access fishing village and, as she tumbles tipsy (all those toasts in vodka!) into bed, nostalgically describes the family head – fisherman, carpenter, entrepreneur – as “a real man.”
I am suddenly tumbled into memory and grief. Memory of my Uncle Dan, grade 3 education and one of the kindest, smartest, most well-read people i have ever met, saying to me, as he loaded the car with bread and cabbages after my new love and i had visited my family in saskatchewan, “You, you keep this one, he’s a man.”
This is, i guess, some secret slavic code i have understood from birth for … well, a real man, one who withstands the worst and cares for his woman.
His recommendation of my new love, older than me, an ignorant/innocent very smart jack-of-all-trades from the woods of Ontario, was all the more potent because of something neither my man nor my Uncle Dan knew.
When i was a bud of a girl, my mom made me take my visiting Uncle Dan and Aunt Annie on a tour of Ottawa. We hit all the high spots: the Parliament, the pulp mill, the mint. By the end Annie was exhausted, and Dan shouldered her heavy purse with no ado. As we stood watching the coins pour out of the mint machine, and the crowd oohed and aahed while annie’s feet hurt, my Uncle Dan said softly, hefting annie’s purse,”You can’t take it with you.”
And i thought to myself, at only 13, “So This is a Man.” And never forgot.
Now my man is a shell, a ghost who resembles his former self in looks, but who no longer understands spoken english, who starts in terror at mundane events, who barely recognises me, and has no memory of our life together, who wanders around and around the dementia ward, looking for who knows what.
And i wonder. This is the best we can do for victims of this awful disease. Look after them, fed and clothe them, keep them clean. Entertain them, try for those precious moment of joy.
It is, to be blunt, a humane looney bin. Is this all we will be able to do, as more and more, as millions, are stricken with this disease: Build more and more locked wards for those sentenced to lose their minds?
The Senate has released a major report on dementia in Canada in Canada, calling for better home care, long term care infrastructure, and research. They are right. Tell your MP we need this.
- The number of Canadians with dementia will double over the next 15 years to 1.4 million in 2031, up from 750,000 in 2011.
- The direct cost of caring for dementia patients will rise dramatically to $16.6 billion a year in 2031, compared to $8.3 billion in 2011.
- The total annual direct and indirect costs associated with dementia are projected to rise to $293 billion by 2040, compared to $33 billion in 2015.