“Alzheimer’s” The Forgotten Friend
If you haven’t figured it out yet, life fills every day with; complicated, overwhelming, albeit, random surprises. And with the dawning of each new sunrise, we hope with all our hearts that tomorrow brings us better, more pleasant, surprises than the day before. Now, if we lived in a perfect world that would be, well, perfect, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and often times life deals us a couple of hands of “I’m going to make your life a living hell” and follows it up with a side of; “I don’t think you’ve had enough yet so I’m going to make your life even more hellish.”
So is the life of someone who suffers from “Alzheimer’s disease” and the lives of their “Caregivers.” If I were to say that; “every day is a brand new day for someone living with “Alzheimer’s disease,” I wouldn’t be stretching the truth in the least little bit. However, for the most part, each new day for both the person with “Alzheimer’s” and their “Caregivers,” is jam-packed with fresh, unique, neoteric, challenges that, at times, can be frustrating, exhausting and heartbreaking.
As “Caregivers,” we sometimes lose our patience out of exasperation, fear and the sinking feeling of defeat. It’s a constant battle of reminding yourself that the person with “Alzheimer’s disease” isn’t forgetting everything on purpose or not trying to remember out of spite, but more because they sincerely can’t help it as the disease ravishes their thought process and memory. It’s a feeling of helplessness for both that I know all too well and wouldn’t wish on anybody . . . ever!
One thing is for certain though, whether a person is diagnosed with “Younger-Onset” (under the age of 60 which by the way the number of diagnoses of people under the age of 55 is increasing by more than 20% a year and by the year 2036 could cause an economic crisis in the United States the likes it’s never seen before) or diagnosed at a more advanced age, they’re fully aware that they have the disease and don’t need people to remind them about it all the time. The diagnosis itself is such a crushing blow to the spirit and knowing there is no cure for it is even more depressing.
As a “Caregiver,” part of me wants to vent and fill this page up with words about how sad, angry, frustrated and defeated I feel and how much my life has been changed since being cast into this unacknowledged, unrewarding, thankless, role. Yet, another part of me understands that in a different capacity her life has been changed just as much as mine and I should fill this page up with words that will help enlighten the world to the facts verses the myths about this diabolical disease.
Recently on an “Alzheimer’s” support group page, I had a conversation with a fellow member whose story mirrored that of my own right down to our ages and the ages of our children. He also told me how their once large group of friends had dwindled down to just two couples who he felt visited them more out of sympathy than anything else. Because his wife has “Younger-Onset,” he said her friends had, for lack of a better word . . . given up on her. Reading this not only saddened me, but also made me realize how little people know about this horrible disease and how it affects a person and their family.
Let me explain something to everyone out there, especially if you know someone or some other family going through this now or maybe in the near future . . . don’t confuse “Alzheimer’s” with stupidity, they’re two altogether different things. As I previously stated; they know they have it, they know they make mistakes, they know they have trouble getting words out even though in their mind they can see them, they know their concentration is compromised, they know they repeat themselves often and more importantly . . . they know they FORGET! These are not however, good reasons for you to FORGET them or that you are family or friends to them.
You need to realize that they will have good days as well as bad days and you need to understand the incredible stress and anxiety their “Caregivers” are under every minute of every day, trying to care for them the best they know how. Show them both that you care about them by doing something nice for them or just let them vent their frustrations, worries and concerns to you, but for God’s sake, don’t give up on that friend. Don’t make him or her feel any worse than they already do. Know too that they cry, they cry more often than you could ever imagine and they know when they’ve been forgotten.
It’s no secret that life is short . . . to short . . . and what you do as a friend, as a human being and how you treat people is a reflection of who you, yourself are. What kind of friend would you want to be and how would you want to be remembered? What if it was you or your husband or wife that had “Alzheimer’s disease?” How would you feel? How would you want your friends and family to treat you?