Published on February 23rd, 2014 @ 10:17:00 am , using 368 words
I have two friends struggling with Alzheimers or dementia or whatever we can call it. It is a debilitating illness and it makes the caregivers try whatever they can to better the situation. But what is hardest is the loss of the full person one once loved. Both friends Keith and Dick were always alert, intellectually and artistically aware persons who could talk about a whole range of subjects. Keith Keller was a fine painter and teacher of art. One of his paintings is on my wall: 'Storm' which depicts a beautiful but perhaps a bit troubled woman with a storm brewing behind her. It is an image that has meant a lot to me when it hung in Keith's gallery and I asked him if I could have it when he moved to an assisted living facility. My friend Dick Hopkins has been a friend since 1984 when we worked with director Paul Baker on a Preston Jones play, 'The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia' in Santa Fe. Dick and I started a theater company in Albuquerque, The Coyote Players, and we spent a lot of time together, often over dinner with his great wife and my dear friend, Lucy Noyes. Now Lucy is his primary caregiver and she has to deal with the loss of the man who was so alive intellectually. Dick has trouble remembering anything of recent years or weeks, and though he comes back to life occasionally, he seems confused and a bit lost most of the time.
Just how this kind of senility has become such a common ailment in our times is somewhat beyond my understanding. I do know there seem to be few solutions from medicine, though no doubt one day there will be therapies that will help. For now, there are assisted-living facilities and the incessant care giving that seems to require so much of both family members and paid helpers. One thinks oftimes that these end-of-life ailments are overwhelming, sad, and then inevitable. But accepting the absence of the person's presence of mind is also disheartening. But we all go on, trying to be of help, trying to stay alert and sane ourselves.