The Zen of Eating Cream of Wheat: A Journey Into Dementia

As a bedside hospice volunteer in San Francisco, I always have the choice of whether or not to accept an assignment. Some, I immediately know are right for me, such as sitting with a man my age who was estranged from his family and desperately wanted to reconnect with them. With others, especially those with advanced Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, I occasionally question whether the assignment makes sense—but not anymore.

The Zeniness of Aging

It began when I dropped a ceramic pie dish for no apparent reason. Expensive, but replaceable. Not a big deal I thought, just my new clumsy self. But the next day when I tripped going up the stairs and sprained my ankle, I questioned that it was clumsiness. And when I fell off my bicycle, again for no apparent reason and tore up the left side of my body, I became concerned—really concerned.

Dying Stands Logic on its Head

We often harshly judge behaviors we don't understand. They can involve someone's ingratitude, anger, or actions we label as foolish. I recently was guilty of the same thing here in the San Francisco Bay area with one of my hospice patients.

Cudos to 60 Minutes

The 60 Minutes segment on end of life expenses did more than highlight inappropriate medical costs. It spoke to the role of medical technology in our...