Thursday, November 12, 2015


November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and once again it got me thinking back to the last year of my mother’s life. When the family was going through that year, there was debate whether she had true Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia. Really, what difference does that make? The net effect is the same. The patient loses touch with reality and eventually succumbs to some organ failure. The impact on the family is the same whether Alzheimer’s disease or senility.

A deteriorating mind is not the only failure that must be dealt with. Family dynamics become strained because different members believed they have answers, or worse, thought that people were overreacting, and that my mother was not that bad off.

My mother was living alone in an apartment about 150 miles away from where I was living. While on a business trip one time I decided to stop by to say hello. That’s when I had a reality check. She tried to cook a meal but could not quite remember how to use a gas stove. There were medications strewn about the floor. She accused the paper delivery boy of stealing what little money she had.

The hard choice had to be made. My mother had to be transferred to a special memory loss nursing home. Before that, we had tried having her live with a family member. That did not work as she frequently wandered away from home. The next step had to be taken. My wife and I got the job of placing her in a nursing home. It was one of the most difficult steps I ever had to do.

In 1983, President Reagan designated November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month for good reason. Caregivers, family members, friends all struggle dealing with this disease. You’ve heard the phrase, ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.’ From my experience it takes a comparable village … a team of family members to handle a patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

Take this month to appreciate and recognize caregivers. Send a note card or a small token gift. Let the caregiver know you are praying for their strength and encouragement as they face the slow agonizing journey to the end.
Robert Parlante

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