Everywhere I go with old friends I meet new people, friends of my friends. Over dinner or a cup of coffee we get to know each other and the fact of my respite visit and my husband's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is revealed.
"Please help me," one woman held onto my forearm. "If I were a good sister I would go to Texas and find my sister a place she would like, right?"
"I have such a hard time speaking to my Dad on the telephone," a man began, "How can I keep in touch if he can't speak to me?"
"I really don't know if my Dad has Alzheimer's or not. His wife keeps everything quiet and says they don't need any help. What is my responsibility?"
"My Mom passed away from Alzheimer's last year. I was so devastated, but I'm doing better now. I know what you are going through, but I still feel guilty for placing her in a residence that last year. Was I right to do so?"
There are so many people whose lives are touched by this devastating illness and so many more folks my age who will be caught up in it within the next ten to fifteen years. The people I 'm meeting are not caregivers right now, but they either were caregivers or expect to be caregivers in the future. They are making plans for long term care insurance, getting wills and powers of attorney and medical proxies signed so of they are the ones needing care they will have their wishes known. One family attended a day long conference at Hunter College about Alzheimer's disease, "Just in case."
It doesn't hurt to get informed, to share your information with others, to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease and the difficulties for the families.