Having known a few people who suffered the heartbreak of Alzheimer's, I have to admit that it seems to be the worst possible way to go. Having had ulcers at an early age, which were treated in those days with aluminium-based antacids, I fear that if I live long enough, I'll suffer that fate. Perhaps an earlier death will come as a blessing.
I'm not sure how much suffering the Alzheimer's patient experiences. I have to wonder how much of their surroundings they are aware of. Do they realize, after a time, that they are losing their minds? I know that most realize that memory loss is setting in initially, but does a point come when sufficient memory is lost that one no longer realizes that it ever existed? Do they become like children at some point, learning new things daily, only to lose that knowledge again without the realization that it was ever known?
I've seen the movie Awakenings, which dealt with a similar affliction. It bothers me to think of life in that condition. I wonder how much my stepson is aware of, and whether he feels tormented, with a will to move, to speak, to walk, and to eat, all while imprisoned in a body that can do none of those things. I suppose, like anything else in life, we learn to deal with it. However, being terribly clausterphobic, the idea of being so imprisoned is not a welcome thought. I've actually awakened at night fearful that I would find myself so afflicted, and I've had to go outside, into the fresh air, until the sense of dread passes.
Mostly, I fear becoming a burden on those I love. As a Catholic family, it is a burden they are likely to bear without complaint. It is also a burden I cannot willfully deny them, if it is ordained to be. However, it is a burden I do not wish upon them, or anyone else. I've always been leary of placing myself at the mercy of others. I prefer to drive when we travel, rather than be driven. I try never to drink to a level that I am not in control of my situation, in order not to have to depend on others to find my way home. I try always to be in control of my own situation, and I try to instill that concept in my son. I realize that at some point I will have to surrender myself to the care of doctors, nurses, caregivers, or whoever, at least for a short time, but I do not cherish the thought that I will be under someone's care long-term. Hopefully, I will not find myself in that condition, but if I do, I pray that I am able to keep their burden as light as possible.
I guess that's my way of saying I hope I die with my boots on.
<small>[ 03-13-2006, 10:21 AM: Message edited by: Shapley ]</small>
Quod scripsi, scripsi.