cruelty or kindness?

Oct 6, 2008

self portrait in store window, originally uploaded by zen.

Longtime friend of mine, Betty, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease more than 5 years ago and have been living with Frank, her son and wife Elaine the entire time. The memory problems have gotten worse in the last year and become nearly untenable for the family and, sadly, it was time to pursue institutional care, even at Betty’s suggestion.

After checking out the best facilities and affordability, they selected a place we’ll call Golden Memories and followed the suggested transfer scheme as follows: When Betty was at her usual health-club they moved all of her furniture and belongings to her new room at Golden Memories and then picked her up from the health club telling Betty they were all going to ‘look at’ the facilities at Golden Memories. When they got there they did look at the new room and left Betty in the hands of the facilitators who occupied her with new stuff to see and do while Frank and Elaine left. They were told not to contact Betty for the next two weeks to let her ‘settle in.’ It was hard for Frank and Elaine, and it felt clandestine and somehow dishonest, but they are doing it.

I see both sides. It seems both cruel and merciful at the same time.

I’ve also seen what Betty has gone through living with her mind slipping away in front of her, the pain and the confusion, and I know both Frank and Elaine are extremely compassionate people. It saddens me and yet I see now how a huge burden has been lifted from the minds and shoulders of F&E, replaced with moments of guilt and moments of relief.

I’ve never had to live with someone with Alzheimer’s and hope that if I ever get it I will have the wherewithal to take my own life before these sweet memories drain into the dirt.


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