Chasing Calm
Random lessons in life, love, and transition. — From Los Angeles, California to Stuttgart, Germany — March 2010

HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project – Part One

momanddad 009

My mom and dad around 1943 or 1944 on their very first date. (As written on the back of the photo.)

Tonight, Mother’s Day, HBO’s debuted, “The Alzheimer’s Project.” I thought it an odd day to debut the documentary, but then again, maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive.

Until the very last minute I tried to avoid thinking about Mother’s Day because my mom passed away from Alzheimer’s this past December, two days before my birthday. My father also passed away from Alzheimer’s (and Parkinson’s Syndrome) in 1997.

I just finishing watching the program about an hour ago and I’m still worn out. Probably because several times I caught myself holding my breath, my jaws tight, teeth clenched. For 90 minutes the program presented seven stimulating stories of elderly people in varying stages of Alzheimer’s.

In every one of these stories I recognized some of the characteristics that were also present in my mother and father. It may have been the incessant picking or fiddling with something, the anger that comes with losing their independence, the depression that comes with knowing “something is not right,” the hallucinations, a mother not recognizing her son, and without doubt, the story of a gentleman in his final stage of life, and the misery his wife experiences in carrying out his wishes to allow him to die without taking extraordinary measures. The documentary shows this man’s final seconds of life as his wife and family all watch crying knowing his time on earth is over. That scene was very uncomfortable and difficult for me as it hit too close to home as I lost my mother in much the same way was just a few months ago.

Another side of Alzheimer’s I identified with was the caregiver. In the documentary whether it was the wife, the son, the daughter, it took a tremendously heavy toll on them. In my case, I went through it with my dad for about four years moving back home to take care of him his final year of life, then about three years later, my mother was diagnosed with the disease. In her case my role was even greater taking care of her daily needs in ways I never imagined I would do with her.  In many ways the parent child relationship does reverse, although they are not a child, they are an adult. It is your parent. I tried to remember that.

From the TV promotions I assume the documentary will also present a promising future for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. I so wish this to be true, I can hardly focus on it until I know it is real. One of my greatest fears is the worry that I too will soon have it. That perhaps in 15, 20, 25 years I will slowly begin losing pieces of myself and until I there is no more. It becomes a countdown of sorts and creates an unnecessary pressure in my life I am still dealing with.

As difficult as it was to watch, I will keep watching. I wish a few key people past and present who intersected in my life during the last twelve years and just didn’t understand what I was going through could also see this important program.


One Response to “HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project – Part One”

  1. I can’t tell you not to worry, you’re going to no matter what. What I can say is not to let the ‘What if’ questions rule your life. Sweetie, you could walk out the door tomorrow and something could happen that you never planned for and your life could be over. The advantage is that you know this is a possibility so you’ll be keeping a closer eye on the advances that are made regarding it and hopefully they will come so that you will never have to realize your greatest fear. At any rate you can’t let it control and shadow all the best parts of your life. As a matter of fact, use it as a motivator to live your life to the absolute hilt! Regret nothing and don’t let it make you second guess your choices. No one gets it all right nor do they always get it wrong. The wonderful thing is that there are so many options to choose from!!! *wink*

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