A Christmas Carol - A Great Metaphor for The Future of Alzheimer's and Dementia
My favorite story is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I love the parts about Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The main character, Scrooge, travels through each to learn an important lesson at the end. This story teaches us that one is never too old to change. I would like to use this story as a way of explaining my memories of, and intentions for the month of November.
My Novembers Past:
These memories begin with sounds of laughter as my brothers and I played touch football or H.O.R.S.E. with the basketball. I remember hours of raking leaves - jumping in them as a child and dumping them over the hill as I grew older. I enjoyed walking through the woods, looking for squirrels. I smelled the lingering smell of wood smoke or burning leaves. I remember the chore of hanging clothes on the clothesline, using fingers clumsy with coldness. I remember walking to the end of our long driveway to wait for the school bus. We had to wear dresses, so my legs froze in the coolness of the November mornings. The cold also bothered me as I performed at high school football games, twirling my baton.
And then, there was always Thanksgiving. My mother always prepared food for days. The morning of Thanksgiving, my younger brother and I always watched THE PARADE on television. We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner- no one could cook a better turkey than my mom! We would sit at the table, leisurely talking, laughing, sharing stories. I remember the joy of sharing the clean-up duties with my siblings following that wonderful meal. Novembers Past came with few cares in the world. I was safe within the confines of my family's arms.
My Novembers Present:
Reality reigns me in. As wonderful as my memories are, I wouldn't trade them for where I am today - even with the diagnosis of dementia. As I have written in the past, I have married a wonderfully supportive man. He is the husband I always dreamed of finding, but I never expected it to happen.
I don't cook anymore, at least not anything as complicated as a Thanksgiving dinner. My siblings have large enough families to have their own Thanksgiving dinners, so it is a very different time from the days of my youth. My own family is quite small. This year, my daughter and granddaughter will be having dinner with friends. My husband and I are spending our first Thanksgiving with his sister near Dulles, VA.
I will make something easy, something I remember how to make from years past - a sweet potato dish, probably. My Novembers now are much quieter. I struggle to remember appointments or discussions I've had. I say, "I guess I forgot" a lot. There are things I still love about November. I still enjoy snuggling under the cold covers at night. I love to walk through the fallen leaves, and I love to walk through the forest, watching the antics of the squirrels as they search for food.
My Novembers Future:
I have read that Alzheimer's patients live in the present. Early stage dementia patients like me prefer to live in the past and present because the future doesn't look so good.
UNLESS Congress puts more money towards research. UNLESS society begins to understand what Alzheimers/dementia is all about. UNLESS more places are built to accommodate people suffering from these conditions. UNLESS medical schools address the conditions of Alzheimers/dementia more completely, giving the students better techniques to use when working with patients suffering from these conditions.
UNLESS personnel at nursing homes, hospitals, etc. are held to a higher standard of care, given more training, more money, and more support. UNLESS people suffering from these conditions are seen as the precious individuals they are, encouraging them to be the best they can BE. UNLESS Alzheimers/Dementia sufferers are treated with more dignity.
November is National Caregivers Month. These are the silent heroes of the suffering. Caregivers need more support, more training, and more education if the future is to be brighter.
As seen in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, it is never too late to learn to change. I am doing all I can WHILE I can to put a new face on Alzheimers/Dementia. Even now, I can change, and I can make a change.