New Year. New Resolutions. Again?
Alzhiemers. What it does to the body, spirit and mind.
This is not to be taken in the usual sense of the term.What I am writing about here has nothing to do with ghosts, surreal happenings, spiritual journeys, life after death, and such like.
It is about my mother-in-law. Whose mind no longer inhabits her body. A body that is hale and hearty, still, at the age of 85. And a mind that is anything but…
Why? Because she has Alzheimers.
This journey down the hell hole that is Alzheimers started around 20 years ago.A long and painful one, for her, her family and her friends – all the people who look after her, visit her and stand witness to the shell of a woman that she is today.
My mother-in-law was one of the most beautiful, vibrant, intelligent and smart women I have ever known. She was always busy, with lots of interests and activities, at home and outside it. A voracious reader, she was closely involved in the arts scene – she could count some of the leading painters of the day as close friends. She had diverse interests that spanned the gamut – from theatre and the movies to politics and current affairs.
She ran an efficient home. Her family loved her. Her friends did so as well. She drove her car and led an independent and busy life. And as a mother-in-law she was a gem.
What happened to that beautiful mind behind the beautiful face?
So where has that woman gone? What stole my mother-in-law’s mind, brain and heart, leaving her a mere shell of the person she had been? Before this dread disease struck so close to home, I was just vaguely aware of the depredations caused by this disease. The impact it has on not just the sufferer but all those who surround her.
I kind of knew it was bad but didn’t realise the horrific dimensions of it. I felt it over time and I wasn’t even living in the same city as her. I can’t even begin to imagine what her caregiver has been through over the last 20 years. The same person…her son…whose whole life has been spent in looking after her. And now his father as well…a tall, strong, sturdy man, pushing 90, who is deaf and suffers from full blown Dementia.
I met my mother-in-law at the onset of this disease. At that stage, everyone around her was laughing and joking about how she was forgetting things – names, events, meetings…. Specially stuff that had happened just days and a few short weeks before. Her short term memory was going down the tube but her long term memory was fine. She had to stop driving – it was too risky. And she had to be reminded about events and appointments.
Shortly after that meeting with her, she was diagnosed.
A beautiful face with empty eyes…
Over the years, I have visited her maybe half-a-dozen times. I lived abroad and visits were few and far between. Till the mid-2000s she could still recognise faces and names. One could still talk with her albeit with a lot of repetitions and reminders. And then things got progressively worse and I was positively discouraged from visiting her. I was told it would be pointless and frustrating for me…and my presence would not make any difference to her. Sad but true…
But a few months ago, I visited the city she lives in and visited her. Spent two days with her, spoke at length with her son.
It was heartbreaking. Her face is still beautiful…amazing given her age which is 80+. She is in good health considering her mental condition. Butshe is not there…she’s MIA (missing in action) as they say in the army.
She sits in her chair, mumbling to herself, oblivious to her surroundings and the people around her. She is fed, bathed, taken to the bathroom, changed, given her meds, put to bed and woken up – handled like a rather large doll with no reactions, no mobility, and a brain as hollow and empty as the doll’s.
She looks and doesn’t see. She listens and doesn’t hear. She feels but doesn’t respond.Her mind, that temple of the human state, has gone far, far away… never to be found again.