Scallywag

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

Alzheimers Will Do It

June 11th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 34 secs

Let's not forget Alzheimer's.

Let’s not forget Alzheimer’s.

Yes, Mum has Alzheimers. It’s not an easy gig and Ruth is finding it tough going. But it’s a real and powerful part of life.

Watching someone you love gradually disassemble is distressing. Sure, you can laugh a lot of things off. But with Alzheimers, the hardest reality remains: that the person you care about is fading.

Ruth told me Mum lost her ability to sign her name last week. It’s a poignant symbol isn’t it? While a scrawl on paper doesn’t seem much, that mark reflects a very fundamental part of being an adult: responsibility.

Mum is also forgetting her own daughter’s name. She forgot her husband’s ages ago. Now he is just “that man” (though she has been sharing the same bed with “that man” for over 60 years). By degrees, Alzheimers – that is to say those plaques growing in her brain – are stealing her memories and also her identity.

If you have been a carer for someone with this kind of disease you know only too well what it means. I liken it to identity death; a condition that progressively takes your loved one away even while they are still here. Ready or not, they’re going.

Having been part of a friendly street community in a nearby neighborhood, we had our first close encounter with Alzheimers 15 years ago. Maureen became increasingly desperate, anxious, and confused, as her sophisticated self drained away. Understandably, her husband, a retired airline pilot, couldn’t handle it. So we, as a little street community, tried our best to help.

Since then, I’ve seen the classic signs a few times. That and the anguished looks of caring relatives. Like all diseases, Alzheimers produces pain. Only, it’s not so much the person’s but their partner, family, and friends.

These sorts of hard things are not part of a failed life or some mistake. Alzheimers and other forms of dementia are a genuine aspect of what real life is about. Things happen. Difficulties come. They are unwanted, even dreaded, but they are not the end of life at the time. Rather, they’re just a hard chapter to live through and even the happiest lives have that.

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