Communion Of Dreams

The road ahead.
March 16, 2011, 10:20 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, Publishing

Got a call Sunday afternoon – old friends K & L with whom we are in sporadic contact were in town, wanted to get together sometime this week, if it was convenient.

In the course of the conversation it came up that they had just realized that L’s mother, who lives alone here, wasn’t just experiencing the normal forgetfulness of advancing years. No, there were clear signs of something else going on: age-related dementia.


I discussed it with my wife, Martha. We made arrangements to get together last night. Fortunately, the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter was having a support group meeting for care-providers early evening.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday was . . . difficult. I was distracted by the latest news from Japan. We had some information about a legal tussle we’re involved with which wasn’t very encouraging. I was hurting a bit (residual problems related to the pneumonia which I have been struggling with these last months). Work on editing Her Final Year was slow.

But come the early evening, we got together with our friends. Drove to the Alzheimer’s Association building. My wife and L stayed for the support group meeting. My buddy K and I went out for a beer.

We chatted. He knew that we had taken care of Martha Sr through the arc of Alzheimer’s. He knew that I had been working on a care-giving book. He needed someone to talk with.

* * * * * * *

Later, all of us wound up back here at the house, talking. Martha and I discussed with them where L’s mother was in the progression of the disease (very early), offered advice on the steps they need to take right now, what they should be thinking about further ahead.

K & L are both intelligent, well educated, professional people. They listened to our advice, asked the right kinds of questions, were already thinking through the necessary steps and how to resolve them. We offered suggestions on local resources (part of the reason why we wanted to make sure they got in contact with the local Alzheimer’s Association). We discussed some of the experiences we had, problems encountered, ways we did or did not resolve them.

It was a good conversation. They were both coping, but clearly a bit stunned by the suddenness of everything.

They left, after we made tentative plans to get back together with them tomorrow or Friday, depending on how things go. They’re going to want to have someone to talk with again about this, after they start getting into the nitty-gritty. Even if they don’t realize it yet.

* * * * * * *

This morning on our walk, Martha and I discussed last night. She observed that K seemed a little more out of his depth than L was. We chatted about possible reasons for this. Perhaps it was due to her attending the support group. Perhaps it was due to the fact that L had seen her grandmother struck down by Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it was simply due to the fact that typically, more women are used to being in the role of care-provider, and so tend to think in terms related to that.

The comment jelled something in me that I hadn’t quite yet put entirely together: the realization that there is a solid likelihood that if things go well, it may be that the most important thing I can accomplish in this life will be to raise awareness among men that they too should be thinking in these terms. That their parents, their spouses, are just as subject to age-related dementia. That watching for the signs, preparing for the possibility, is something that they should get used to.

I would never have predicted that this would be an important milestone in my life. Perhaps the most important.

Funny how life is, isn’t it?

Jim Downey

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