09:14

Alzheimers

I saw Still Alice last week - a remarkable film With Julienne Moore as an articulate academic dealing with early onset Alzheimers. It is particularly powerful as it is neither despairing nor sentimental and shows the conflicts it brings even into a strong marriage and the awful agony of experiencing the loss of the essential self that is at the heart of the condition. We have two family members who are afflicted, so it is close to home.

One of the main symptoms of the disease is the gradual disappearance of both the past and the future. As the condition moves into its later stages the victim is increasingly isolated in the present moment with no concept of the future and less and less grip on the past - particularly the recent past though the more distant the memory the stronger it seems to be. I read a few years ago a moving article by Michael Ignatieff about his father and Alzheimers. He focused on this isolation in the present and urged anyone living with a sufferer to try as much as possible to join them in there.

This is not easy to do. We make conversation about the past as a matter of course. 'Did you enjoy lunch?' Did your son come this weekend?' Much better is 'Isn't this the most beautiful sunset?' or 'Doesn't this flower smell wonderful.' If you practice it stops feeling patronising and actually helps you to experience the world in a more immediate and 'real' way. I can become a gift that someone suffering this horrible disease can give to you.

Try it.
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