I found this touching letter written by a man battling Alzheimer’s. The author’s son submitted the letter, which was written by his father nearly 10 years ago at the onset of the disease.
…if I fight it and think positively maybe I can conquer this Alzheimer fellow . It would be a pleasure to laugh at him and say goodbye. Think of what you have achieved in the past years and these thoughts will help. You have raised children, and they have loved you and you are so fortunate. Appreciate what you have. You have to be strong, I realize, but you can do it! I volunteer at two hospitals and enjoy taking people to their destinations in the hospital. I sometimes (actually quite often) joke with them. As I am leading patients upstairs, I will humour them a bit by telling them “I am taking you first to Las Vegas” and then we will go up in the elevator. They always laugh and say, “Oh please!” It makes them feel good and I feel good also. Another casualty of the fiendish Mr. Alzheimer is the family. My family takes good care of me but sometimes I feel they are at fault because they are being overprotective. They mean well but it makes me feel like a nothing. In my case, I am on the borderline of Alzheimer’s. I say this because, I am not that bad. I forget names, that is all! I was advised not to drive but I still feel that I can drive better than all the hot-shots on the road to-day. I have not seen the statistics of my condition and on my next visit to my doctor I will ask him to show me the results of my tests. I still play a great game of tennis, I bowl and do all the normal other things that people do, and yet I have this Alzheimer’s’ stigma. Maybe if they (whoever they may be) could live with me and see how I act daily I wouldn’t be put in this category.
To read the entire piece, check out The Birthdays Continue Despite Alzheimer’s Disease. It will make you smile.
Its a common malady in health care settings to think of a patient or client in terms of their disease or diagnosis. Come to think of it, we all have a tendency to view people within a categorical lens; it’s what we’re taught to do.
Sometimes it seems like people would rather be diagnosed with any other disease than Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is a devastating condition to live with, no doubt. It can often be even more crushing for the family of the dementia patient. One of the hardest things in the world to witness is your loved one fading away…and with Alzheimer’s/dementia, there are typically years of mental and cognitive decline that precede bodily or physical deterioration. The person *looks* the same and *seems* the same on the surface, but their personality, language ability and memories are being torn away from them. That’s a terrifying and sad thing to see happen in the people who mean a lot to us.
Still, a dementia diagnosis need not be the end of the world.
Just because your loved one can’t recall what they did five minutes earlier, doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy continuing to share and engage in their relationships. Dementia can be an isolating disease, whether the individual lives in a long term care facility or in the community. In the earlier stages, the person often is able to recognize that something is not right within them. They notice some of the mental and cognitive changes taking place. Many people become embarrassed or ashamed by what is happening to them, and therefore begin to pull away from their family, friends, and activities. They don’t want anyone to perceive that they have a memory problem and they certainly don’t want to be identified solely by this degenerative and mind-robbing condition.
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, one of the best things you can do for them is continue to include them in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are repeating the same news over and over to them, or if they tell you the same stories from their childhood as though its the first time they shared it with you. People with dementia just want to have someone they can talk with. It means so much to be able to share in other people’s lives and keeping connected to the world outside sometimes helps the person with dementia to retain many of their cognitive skills for a longer time than if they remained isolated.
And keep in mind: dementia may be a part of the person’s medical diagnosis, but it is not ALL of what makes them who they are and always were to you.