My father had dementia! At the same time there was also Facebook
The Angie Mazakis
In the spring of 2018, I received a friend request on Facebook from a scammer – someone pretending to be my father. At least, that's what I thought. The profile used my father's photos, but the name was misspelled. I reported him and went on with my life.
Less than a month later, my father was diagnosed with dementia. At first, my sister and I didn't think much of using social media; we were busy worrying about his new tendency to run away - dementia patients, driven by anxiety or confusion, try to leave the house. But then we noticed his Facebook profile. He started sending strange messages, having random group chats and sharing the same thing over and over. One day, he posted three different memes, six times each, all within the same hour. We later realized that his fake profile was, in fact, very real - it was an additional account that my father had opened by mistake.
My father's cognitive decline had an audience of almost all of us who knew him, but most did not know about his diagnosis. The more he reached out to people—intentionally or not—the more my sister and I realized that his reality didn't need to be hidden.
In the last six months of his life, dementia caused him to live in anxiety and fear of being alone. His use of social media reflected his constant state of agitation. He sent me endless text messages on Facebook… His posts seemed to calm him down; they gave him an outlet for his nervous energy and gave him the feeling of being connected to other people. However, I felt anxious about his online activity. It would have taken a lot of effort to alert each of his friends to the situation he was going through. So we just let him continue using social media, assuming that people would eventually ignore his posts.
Por nuk ndodhi kështu. Në vend të kësaj, ata ishin kryesisht të shqetësuar dhe gjithashtu të lumtur që ishin ende të lidhur me të. Rreth një muaj para se babai im të vdiste, ai më telefonoi përmes Facebook-ut – diçka që nuk e kishte bërë kurrë më parë. ‘E di që nuk doje, por më vjen mirë që telefonove’, i thashë. 'A e di që ke shtuar gjashtë persona të tjerë në këtë telefonatë?' Mund të kemi disa vizitorë që do të bashkohen." Një mik u bashkua nga Karolina e Veriut dhe foli me të për disa minuta. Para se ta mbyllte telefonin, ai tregoi se sa shumë babai im kishte rëndësi për të. Pastaj u bashkua një shok tjetër që po kalonte me makinë nëpër malet e Libanit. 'E dua këtë njeri. Unë e dua babanë tënd”, tha ai. 'Ai është si një baba për mua'.
Dementia patients are often so secretive, whether in the community or in their thoughts and behaviour. But watching my father's friends react to his online activity, I realized that I should have had a little more faith in their care for him, and the persistence of that care when he no longer seemed himself.