Paul ( name changed, free image not applicable), looks good from this angle…..
He looks dynamic, ready to take on the whole world……seems in full control of his mental faculties…..
When his son and grandchildren come for a visit, he’s carefree and full of jokes and quirks…..
You see, my friends, he remembers his kindergarten and playschool days as well as his own grandchildren do!
He is capable of participating in every possible game with them, even puzzles and building blocks….of which the three of them, Paul himself, his granddaughter Sandra and grandson Devin are just now partaking in a construction project….
Devin’s remembered what Paul told him about stacking around window spaces, without getting the structure crumbling….he’s carefully shifting one of the longer blocks further into the wall area. Paul watches him carefully, and whispers something to Sandra.
She looks up hopefully, holding a tiny doorpiece. He nods, and supervises her pushing it into its space slowly, a gentle tug upwards when it’s almost in, to interlock the wee door hinges..
Then, he himself picks up a piece for the corner of two walls meeting on the far side, his hand unwavering….
In it goes, closing the perpendicular gap neatly. He beams, laughs gently and whispers, “Buddledy-buddledy-boom”.
He always does this when he’s pleased with himself and his work.
His own Grandpa always said that when he was in a great mood. When his youngster of the second generation came running home from playschool, to be the first one in the hobby-shed where model airplanes were built and painted, in their original national colors…
Well, on they build, the three proud constructors, while the nurse brings in a tray with coffee, milk and cookies.
Soon, the castle-like structure is finished, and the two kids give a whoop of joy. Grandpa looks on with pride, but he’s beginning to look somewhat uncomfortable….
Nurse Beth recognizes the signs.
“Run along downstairs, you two, to the cafeteria, and tell Mom, your Granddad’s tired and wants a rest”, she says, and shooes them towards the door. Off they run, laughing and boasting about how difficult their part of the house had been to build.
SECRETS WELL KEPT
There are a few things Sandra and Devin don’t know about their Granddad. The way his bed at the nursing home needs changing completely, every morning.
The way the night nurse has to assist him and turn him in his bed to get him into a more comfortable position.
The way he needs to be very slowly and gently lead to the bathroom every morning, by two nurses, because he’s convinced that they’re leading him the wrong way….
And there is one thing the two are vaguely curious about, and they’ve ventured to ask him shyly about this on one occasion:
“Grandpa, what’s wrong with your left eye?”, Sandra once asked, as he was squinting at the parcheesi board they were playing at. “It’s so small, and it’s always closed”, she continued.
“Oh, that comes with old age”, he answered with a wave of his hand, and giggled. He was always so boyish when he was being humorous.
THE SAD TRUTH
Not old age, but Alzheimer’s disease can cause such enormous deterioration in all areas of the brain, that nerve connections, like those to the eyes, can be completely destroyed, at the very least, incapacitated.
In Paul’s case, that had happened.
His left eye became totally useless, and needed to be removed.
You couldn’t see anything wrong with him, viewing from the right…..
But if you saw him from both sides, you began to wonder how often he must have asked himself in past years; “Can I trust my eyes?”, knowing he wouldn’t receive an answer…knowing he only had half of his sight, and forgetting that again, only to make the whole shocking experience again, hours later, if he didn’t already perceive it as a normal state to be in….
All due to a deterioration which reminds of the weathering away of shore rock formations by wind and salt water….
The demise and fall of the human brain substance.
There are informative documentaries by leading study groups on Alzheimer’s, which show the comparison between a healthy brain and one in some of the later stages of the disease.
The differences in mass and density are phenomenal.
What I find constantly worthy of thought, is how isolated and alone a person with AD must feel, every single day of their lives…
It is, for us, hard to imagine…
We experience an unspoken connection in our communication with each other, based on background knowledge, comprehension and perceptivity we all share, when our brains are healthy and we are in full control of our own destiny.
This gives rise to the thought of how limited a social interaction can be, and how poor the experience of any communication, when the synapses and nerve structure of the brain are badly damaged, and the person, perhaps recognizing people, surroundings and past memories, no longer has that unspoken tapestry of shared reality upon which to co-experience life with others.
A feeling of being completely alone.
A feeling of being wired to nothing.
Provided the consciousness has not already withdrawn so far, that the body is sure to follow suit…
It’s worth thinking about.
It’s worth getting counselling for, in families that are confronted by this disease.
And it’s important to share, with people of similar experience.
It always helps to talk with people who are willing and capable of listening, understanding and sharing, and with professionals and charity contacts.
They are there for that purpose.
As long as no definate cure can be found for this devastating illness, communication and even documentation are necessary. These are weapons in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Sometimes we feel we need to do so much more than we are already doing, as family members.
But in order to remain sane and capacitated ourselves, it can be necessary to take a step back.
And ask for help. For advice and for feedback from those who have gone through this before us…..