I almost began this post with I haven’t written much in the last week or so, but that’s not really accurate. I’ve written a lot: agendas for meetings; e-mails announcing meetings and encouraging people to attend; copy for flyers, posters and the church website; more e-mails answering questions. Our church is hosting an area-wide ladies’ conference in January, and our pastor asked me to coordinate the event. If I could re-wind to that moment when I said Sure, why not, I might think again before answering.
Seriously, I’m enjoying the experience, and the response from people who are willing to help has been amazing, but it’s also amazing how much time and focus is required. Something else that is amazing is how, in spite of no longer being directly involved with Alzheimer’s and being totally focused on something other than my writings about caring for those with the disease, I am still faced with Alzheimer’s again and again.
Linda I just wanted to let you know that having read your blogs about Alzheimer’s, it helped me recently to cope with a very dear old friend whose has been in this battle for over 15 years. She was a classmate of mine throughout our school years. When we had our 55th class reunion recently, she had no recognition of any of us.
She didn’t give details about how she coped, but I assume that knowing a little more about the disease and how my family dealt with it made her feel more at ease in what could have been an uncomfortable situation. Even though my friend is not a caregiver, for those few moments, she was caring for her friend. It’s important to know a little about what is going on with an Alzheimer’s patient. Even in a chance encounter, it seems to smooth the way for more comfortable interaction on both sides.
A few days after I received this note, I met a new friend at Sunday school. You know those of us who attend regularly have “our seats,” and she was sitting in mine, so I asked if she minded if I sat by her. Of course, she didn’t, and we spent a few minutes chatting before the lesson began. I guess it was one of those divine appointments, because the conversation turned to caregiving. I learned that her mother suffers from Stage 6 Alzheimer’s. After caring for her mom in her home for over seven years, my new friend has recently moved her mother to a nursing home. True to the caregiver’s unwritten code, she is suffering from extreme guilt, thinking that she has not done enough for the one she loves. It’s important for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients to hear the stories of other caregivers and to be reassured that it’s okay and even necessary for the health of all concerned to know when you’ve reached your limits.
Yesterday when I was eating lunch at the Senior Center, I asked my neighbor about her brother-in-law’s recent wedding. She told funny stories about the trials of family who showed up early, caterers who showed up late and a strong Texas wind that wreaked havoc with an outdoor wedding and reception. Then she told about seeing a friend she hadn’t seen in years, a friend who had lost her sister to Alzheimer’s two years ago.
Alzheimer’s touches all of us. No matter how busy we are or how far removed we are from its effects, none of us can get away from it. Even if you are personally spared, even if no one in your family and none of your close friends suffer from the disease, you will eventually be faced with it in some way. It’s important to know how to cope with the old friend who doesn’t recognize you. It’s important to give yourself a break when you’ve done all you can. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. Even though there’s not yet a cure, early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future. It’s important to know, so even when I’m busy with other things, I continue to make time to write about Alzheimer’s, to try and bring it out of the closet and make it part of the conversation.
For more information, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900 or at http://www.alz.org.