Sunday, February 17, 2019
Feb 14, 2019
Rethinking Alzheimer’s, are we? Are we rethinking how we lovingly care for those living with this dreaded disease? This topic came back to mind as I prepared for vacation and remembered Pat and Al who traveled with my vacation group for several years.
The disease was in my face from about 2002 until 2015 when Pat died from the effects of Alzheimer’s. My dear friend Pat was diagnosed when she was 60. Having lived with this disease for over eight years she reach the point her loved ones had to make the heart wrenching decision to place her in a nursing home because she required far more care then they could provide at home. Her husband, Al, in his early 80’s, lovingly cared for her, but being the wise man that he is knew he had to make this decision in order to maintain the mental and physical strength he needs to lovingly care for a person with Alzheimer’s. I tried to visit Al and Pat regularly, the visits were important for all of us. Once Pat moved to nursing home, my visits took on a new meaning for me because they usually included going to their home to visit Al, have an adult beverage and conversation, then off to the nursing home to feed Pat her dinner and then we would go to dinner. The gentleness that I observed as Al feed her is beyond description, love of this kind is beauty that defies definition. During one visit I was sitting at Pat’s feet and so I started rubbing them, apparently it was tickling her, she began to laugh and kept saying “no”, I ignored the “no” only to have her giggle all the more; perhaps a moment of pleasure for Pat. My visits over the years helped me come to a deeper appreciation of how devastating this disease can be, not only for the person afflicted with, but also for the caregivers.
Pat died in January 2015 of one of many complications that comes with Alzheimer's. It was only 3 days before our group was scheduled to leave for vacation in warmer climates. With strong encouragement, Al decided to put the funeral on hold until after we returned from vacation and once we returned we had a grand celebration of Pat’s life. Al lived without Pat until May 2016 and celebrated life to the fullest, something he deserved to do as a reward for the deep love he had for Pat throughout her years of sickness.
Rethinking Alzheimer’s was the title of an article that I read in U.S. News & World Report and here are some facts that may surprise you as much as they surprised me. Alzheimer’s disease is fatal and is a leading cause of death in the United States. Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 72 seconds; by mid-century, someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds. Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal aging; however, one out of eight people 65 and over has Alzheimer’s. In 2005, Medicare spent $91 billion on beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and that number was projected to more than double by 2015.
Why is a pastor of a Catholic parish bringing Alzheimer’s to your attention? First, to be perfectly honest, because it impacted a close friendship, which I enjoyed for over 28 years and it hurts to see such a loving and caring person lost while still living. Secondly, I believe like so many other issues, we have an obligation to promote the quality of life (coming from the Catholic Social Teaching “Life and Dignity of the Human Person”) for all people, particularly those who cannot speak for themselves. To quote from the U.S. News & World Report article, “Many Alzheimer’s sufferers will slowly lose control of their bodies. They need you to move their cause forward. More than 250,000 people under 65 won’t be able to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s, maybe you will.”
Now on the lighter side... Teacher: Now, Simon, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating? Simon: No sir, I don't have to, my mom is a good cook.
Let us continue to pray for peace in our world!
In peace and courage,