Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Care Partner Wednesday--"I'm still here."
I heard something on the radio today that disturbed me.
The announcer was talking about a famous person who had recently died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease.) He said that ALS and and Alzheimer's are alike in that they steal the person away. ALS steals the body and Alzheimer's steals the mind.
Like a sliver in my finger, I kept banging up against that thought all day. Steal the person away...
NO! Alzheimer's does not steal away the person. They change, but who they are, their essence, is still there.
Today, at lunch, I was assisting a lady who is in the latter stages of Alzheimer's. She doesn't walk. She needs help to eat, and her food needs to be minced. She sees little and has her eyes closed most of the time. Yet she is very much there. When you talk to her, she answers in her precise, "school marm" voice that is reminiscent of the principal she used to be. Her character shines through every word.
Another, younger lady is also in late stages. She doesn't talk at all, but her facial expressions speak volumes. If she is amused, it's in her smile and the crinkle of her eyes. If she is disbelieving, she gives you the cut-eye. If she is angry, she frowns and swats your hand away. She tells you exactly what she is thinking, and doesn't need words to do it.
The late Richard Taylor, Ph.D., was a man with a unique perspective. He had an amazing brain and ability to express himself. He also had Alzheimer's. He talks about the disease from his perspective:
"In “What Is It Like to Have Alzheimer’s Disease?” Taylor writes, “Right now, I feel as if I am sitting in my grandmother’s living room, looking at the world through her lace curtains. From time to time, a gentle wind blows the curtains and changes the patterns through which I see the world. There are large knots in the curtains and I cannot see through them.” 1
To the end of his life, Richard Taylor changed and grew with the disease, but he did not leave. He was still there, as are the ladies I help in the dining room. Who they are changes and evolves, as it does with all of us over our lives. But the person they are, is still there for those who choose to see.
Be that person. Be the one who sees.
CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Share ways you can see the essence of who your loved on is.