Many of us have to face a difficult situation as our parents, spouses, or loved ones age. Alzheimer’s is a very unwelcome illness. It is not to be confused with senility.
Everyone eventually has some signs of senility (if we live long enough). Some short term memory loss can afflict us even as youths. Can’t remember that person’s name? What was the name of that town where we had the horseback ride? Once, in my 30s while leading worship, I could not remember the first words to lead the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer. As we age, it often takes longer to retrieve information, probably because there is so much of it stored in our brains. Alzheimer’s, though, is a horse of a different color. Below are some features which describe it.
The quote below comes from part of a post by Internet Monk.
Went to the post office this morning (I love Saturday mail. Please don’t cancel it) and there was an old friend sitting in his car. His wife was in the PO. Big, strong strapping man. Incredible physical shape for a man in his late 70’s. Two years ago he was sharp as a tack. Used to be the main guy in our Friday night high school football trips. Now he doesn’t know me. My name is gone. Recognizes my face. Stutters. Can hardly talk. Asks if I want to go to a football game. I tell him I’m too busy. I ask how he’s doing. He says the state police pulled him over. Probably happened months ago. Alzheimers has ravaged him. He’s a different man. Just a few drops of rationality and memory in a desert of the mind. His wife comes out and looks at me. Her pained face says it all. Taking care of man like this may be one of the most difficult things in marriage, but she’s apparently going to do it as long as she can. I never knew a sweeter, more generous man. Really was enjoying his retirement. That sweetness seems to be left, but for how long? Alzheimer’s is death by torture for everyone involved.
We’re all dying and we’re all going to care for the dying. Do you notice? Some people are going through a world of death, one day at a time, and all alone.
Anyone who is a pastor, particularly in a retirement area, has had to deal with the hurting relatives of those who have Alzheimers. And, you may have even watched one of your members start to drop into that deep well. We have one such person in our congregation. Just two years ago she was simply elderly but hale. Now her body is hale, but her mind is slowly fading away. I am not sure how much of it she notices, and she is always happy. In fact, often Alzheimers hits the surrounding family very hard. The person entering into Alzheimers will also hurt, but as the disease begins to do its deed, the person with Alzheimers may notice less and less that they have it. Meantime the family is noticing more and more.
Do you know the warning signs of Alzheimers?
Memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.
Memory changes that disrupt daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality