Monday, May 04, 2009

Memory and Hope

We don't subscribe to any of the specialty channels on television but I often wish we had HBO. There is a four-part documentary series starting May 10th on Alzheimer's disease and I am intrigued.

Through the years many parishioners have been afflicted by Alzheimer's and it is a terrible disease. Some of the brightest and most gracious people I have known have slipped into the netherworld of this dementia. Apparently Americans list it as the second-most dreaded disease, after cancer. I understand why.

One of our St. Paul's folk is now in a nursing home because of her dementia even though she is otherwise quite healthy. When I go to visit she greets me with a friendly "David, so good to see you!," recognizing me immediately, yet five minutes later she will sheepishly ask my name. Over the course of our time together she will repeat herself several times. We have a couple of households where one half of the couple works to the point of exhaustion caring for the other half whose decision-making abilities have long disappeared.

Christianity is a religion of memory, as are most religions, and it is also a religion of hope. This HBO series addresses the loss of memory and looks at the signs of hope. It would be wonderful if researchers could make the advances in finding a cure for this disease achieved in others.
What are your experiences with Alzheimer's?


Not Alone said...

At an impressionable young age, I remember being the unacknowledged visitor to a nursing home to visit my grandfather. He suffered more than 7 years of 'netherland experience' here on earth. I remember my grandfather sitting on the edge of the the bed holding his head in both hands, all the while 'unaware' of my presence. To my shock, he spoke to the emptiness of the room... "If I could just get this thing out of my head." I was surprised that he might actually be aware of his state and then I was appalled that he might have been 'there' all along and just unable to reach out from the restraining disease from which he was suffering.

I then set in my young mind that my grandfather was still there, as if trapped inside a 'senile' mind/body. He could and was most likely aware of his condition and silently screaming out in frustration, embarassment, and humiliation.

My image of an individual afflicted by any disease that modifies behaviour (Alzheimers or mental illness) changed. I feel we should apply respect, love and compassion without condition... a Christian love for all of God's people.

A quote I love so much... "Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and wrong… because sometime in your life you will have been all of these." If only we all try to live our lives in such a manner.

David Mundy said...

Thanks for this personal insight and a great quote.

I think the saddest stage of dementia is when an individual is aware of the loss of memory and context. They often seem like those who are outside a burned out home or who have been rescued from a crumpled vehicle. The look is one of disorientation. Our persistent compassion and patience is so important.