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Today, I read a piece in [url=http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,688049,00.html][col... Spiegel[/u][/color][/url]. It was an interview with a psychology professor who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when he was 58-years old. It's one of the more unusual, touching....and frightening interviews I've read.
It reminded me about the book "Still Alice" -- a fictional account of a Harvard professor (Alice) who is diagnosed with dementia and her struggles with the condition as it slowly consumes her mind.
I recommend both the interview and the book.
Thank you for posting this. It's exactly as you describe it.
Thank you for the link, Sven. I hadn't heard of Taylor's book before, but I will add it to my library.
Taylor's story is very like [URL=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9538242]Thomas DeBaggio's.[/URL] DeBaggio, who ran a nursery near DC and wrote gardening books and columns, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's (begins before age 65) in 1999, and wrote an amazing book about what was happening to him called Losing My Mind. NPR began interviewing him about the time of his diagnosis and then has kept up with him and his wife Joyce over the years -- the last interview I'd listened to was from 2005, so I was pleased to find that they'd done another in 2007; you can listen at the link.
Early-onset (the form of Alzheimer's that may be genetic) does seem to progress more slowly, at least with these two writers. That's a very long time to live with the hard and increasingly more lonely perceptions that Richard and Tom have of themselves. The honesty and insight is amazing, isn't it? I was and am very grateful for their testimony because it confirms what I believe about the person there who still needs connection and communication, long after most people decide there's no point in trying.
I agree with Richard when he says "We don't need pharmaceuticals, but socio-ceuticals." Short of a cure, the most important issue with dementia right now is care -- how badly we are failing to organize genuinely good care.
I read Still Alice last summer by the lake. It's an incredible book.
edited to add that I just read the interview...yes, sad, beautiful and frightening.
The partner of the victim of dementia can find the first few years hardest, as the adjustment process leaves them open - in some cases - to behaviour that is decidedly not within socially accepted norms. But it is encouraging to find so many people, neighbours and strangers, are sensitive to the behaviours and understand them for what they are..."Uncle Bob" or "Aunt Jane" having done just those things.
"Friends?" We see what friendship is actualy capable of weathering, and it ain't much. People are too "uncomfortable" for an ongoing relationship, and in a hedonistic society of the nuclear family, detached from the responsibility of the old extended family for anything approaching the physical and mental breakdown of old age, it's up to the partner to hang in there.
The good professor must not have the kind of long term disability insurance that can make it possible for the partner to carry on until their retirement, able to indulge the increasingly invalided until they, too, reach retirement age. It is a partnership played out with great care until mobility is no longer possible, and the Altzheimer Society remind you that you are now the only advocate that your partner has to rely on. If you assume the responsibility, your partner will be visited often between the ritually observed Christmas, Easter and birthdays. And, sometimes, the act of "living with yourself" will require daily visits, assuming responsibility for the laundry...just in case you might weaken without that duty.
What if that "Alzheimer's" or "dementia" is actually low thyroid, high copper, a vitamin deficiency?
Here are some links on what Alzheimer's may actually be, and how to deal with it through natural healing methods. http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/articles/default.htm#Al
Harold Foster pdf on Alzheimer's