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Sharing secret thoughts

19 Sep 2008
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - September 2008

Alzheimer's Disease is a long journey taking a family through many stages as the disease progresses. Each stage brings different reactions and emotions.

The early stage is difficult on families because the AD individual is aware of the changes they are going through: memory loss, confusion and difficulty performing familiar tasks. The person may become depressed as they recognize these changes and losses, over which they have no control. They are often treated with antidepressants.

Still struggling with the diagnosis, families are relieved to know why their loved one's behavior has changed. They are also confused because there are many good days with no symptoms.

In the later stages, the family witnesses their loved one's inability to manage their own care. They no longer recognize faces – they have a blank look in their eyes that makes us wonder how much of the person we knew is still there.

My friend would visit his mother once a week in the nursing facility where she lived for several years. She had been an accomplished professional and a strong maternal force. My friend spoke to me of being emotionally wiped out by these visits. He no longer recognized the bedridden woman as his mother and had mourned her for years. She no longer recognized him either. When she died, he felt a mixed bag of emotions – relief, and guilt at feeling relief. At the funeral, he told me that her death had been a blessing.

Family members ask what they would want for themselves if they were in this position. They remember their family members as independent and strong people and feel that they would never want to be dependent on others for all their needs.

One important purpose of a support group is being able to share thoughts with others who will nod in understanding and not sit in judgment. It is a safe place to share feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and grief.

Some of these thoughts would be viewed by mainstream society as taboo. But nothing is taboo among people going through similar experiences and feelings.


Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775