Living with Alzheimer’s- A Personal Anecdote
By Henry Kingston
Alzheimer’s was only a medical name we had heard for many years, only knowing it had to do with memory loss. Little did we know that we would come to know of the dreaded word in real life.
Imagine one fine morning, you get up and going about your daily routines, and about to leave for work when you forget you can’t remember where you left the car keys. You dismiss it as absent-mindedness. Life goes on for normal, then, one day you pick up the phone and seem to forget your home telephone number which you have dialed several times during the last 10 years. You find it funny what stress can do to your mind.
A few weeks later, you forget your way to the grocery store, forget where you had parked the car, miss an important appointment that had been on your mind for the whole week. Friends, colleagues and doctors say you need to slow down, take some time off, practice relaxation and meditation to reduce stress and anxiety; but deep inside you know something’s not right.
My uncle John, then 48 years of age, submitted to a series of questions designed to test his memory, problem solving, attention, counting and language skills; feeling satisfied upon getting the questions right, and existential distress when he didn’t. The physician uncertain of the results suggested an MRI which confirmed the diagnosis; “Early Onset Alzheimer’s”.
The first reaction I remember was disbelief; my uncle had always been very health conscious, physically and mentally active participating in sports, mind-boggling activities and socially connected.
The doctors suggested it may be hereditary/genetic due to a defective gene that runs in families. We all stood by my uncle as he struggled with; being himself, losing objects, losing sleep, but most importantly losing memories. We studied about the disease in great details, about the treatments, latest advancements in improving the quality of life while living with “Alzheimer’s”. It is frightening to see what Alzheimer’s can do your loved one. But never once did we make him feel like a burden. We made adjustments in the house and also made use of the latest healthcare technology so that my uncle could live as comfortably and independently as possible; for as long as possible.
With time, my uncle John needed help with personal grooming as well, and continuous medical monitoring for which we hired a caregiver. He was sympathetic and a very enthusiastic person who kept my uncle alive with his jokes and stories. But, my uncle’s condition deteriorated with every passing day.
A few days after my uncle passed away, we found this noting in his diary that really moved all of us. It read: “Hello John, I’m you. You may not remember yourself, but just wanted you to know what a great life you’ve had…a wonderful, caring wife, two beautiful daughters and a handsome son who have always been and will always be there for you, but have now become a distant memory that will fail with time. Sometimes it’s ridiculous to see how incapable, comic and strange a disease can make you. However, my greatest wish is that none of my loved ones have to face what I am facing. But I’m alive, and as long as I am alive, I will struggle to stay connected, live in the moment, because that’s all I can do for now. I have people who love me dearly and though I may not recognize them, I can see how much it hurts them to see me like this. I still have moments of pure joy and happiness in my life which I shall cherish for as long as I can.”
Henry Kingston is a passionate blogger, Loves writing as it’s his obsession. He has written on various topics like healthcare, home care for the elderly and about different other aspects of life. Follow @Henrykingston30 for more updates