What do dementia and solar power have in common?

Teresa Zawicki
Teresa Zawicki

DAI member Sheryl Whitman shared this piece written by her friend Teresa Zawicki, and it is an excellent analogy that we have been granted permission to publish here. Special thanks to Teresa, for allowing us to share her story of why the experience of living with dementia and solar power have some striking similarities.

It is still World Alzheimer’s Month and/or Dementia Awareness Month 2016, and we continue our series of daily blogs. It is also either day 4 or 5 of #WAM2016  #DAM2016, depending on where you live when this is  posted… As if dementia isn’t confusing enough!!

Living with dementia is like living with solar power, sort of.

By Teresa Zawecki

“Most people who have solar power, have multiple solar panels and regular electricity as backup at night and on cloudy days. Their power capacity is unlimited, as it is for those with traditional electricity. People buy generators, just in case of emergencies.

People with dementia are limited to one solar panel with no backup source. No generators. No traditional electricity.

From the second I wake up, my brain requires power to make my systems function.

If I watch TV, it drains my limited power. Listening to music drains my limited power. Engaging in conversation, drains my limited power. Showering, reading, preparing a meal, doing chores; any activity that requires following a sequence of steps will drain my power.

Anything that requires following steps, multi-tasking, visual and sound overstimulation, a crowd of people, and recalling information (like grocery shopping) drains the power so rapidly that by the time I get 3/4 of the way finished, it’s likely I will have used up every kilowatt of energy.

And then confusion, frustration, mental exhaustion, negative emotions or the inability to form and communicate thoughts hit like a tornado, causing a bigger mess.

Some days, I wake with a fully charged amount, as much as one panel can provide anyway. But often, I wake with a deficit. I have many cloudy days! The same basic events deplete power at a more rapid pace, leaving me unable to function while everyone else move, speaks, and functions at full power with backup sources readily available. They never question it.

People with dementia need people who can either supply some power for us, or do some tasks for us so we have some remaining kilowatts. Even a basic understanding helps.

So know that we operate with a power deficit every single day.

We move, think, speak and function at a slower pace, either because we’re running low on kilowatts, or were trying to conserve energy for something important later.

We hate running out of power. We don’t want this. We didn’t sign up for this plan!! No one would!!”