Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Difference.

I was just out of town at my nephew-in-law's graduation in California. We had a great visit, spending time with my fiance's family and enjoying some good sun and good food. In the course of the visit, I found myself spending time with an elderly member of the family; my nephew's ninety-year-old grandmother.

Whenever I meet an older person now, I can't help but compare them to my father. My ninety-four year-old hospice patient is as sharp as a tack. My patient may be old and infirm of body, but has the mind of a forty-year old, understanding current events and able to converse with me about what's going on in the world as well as what happened seventy years ago. It is obvious that the people around my patient still enjoy their company and presence. It was much the same situation with the grandmother.

She moved slowly, suffering from arthritis in her knees and feet, and with the expected aches and pains of a ninety-year-old. She was also quite hard of hearing, but seemed able to manage while in company with a hearing aide. But she was doing just fine mentally, keeping up with all of the conversations she could hear, and aware of what was going on in the world around her. She had a sense of humor and came alive when around the family, laughing and talking. My nephew and his mother obviously appreciated her company and were glad she was still present with them. My father is at least twenty years younger than she is, but he sits at home quietly, saying little and understanding even less, and shuffling slowly when on a walk.

It makes me sad, and it also makes me think angrily that early onset dementia is a horror, one that we still barely understand. Why does Alzheimer's and dementia and LewyBody take one individual and not another, and why sometimes so heart-breakingly early, before a life is even close to being finished. My father has been suffering from the gradual loss of his mind for at least fifteen years now, while these two lovely almost-centenarians continue to maintain their sharp focus. I can only hope that researchers get going quickly on solving these terrible conditions, so that more people can enjoy their loved ones for a much longer time, and don't lose them at such young ages.

1 comment:

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