More importantly you will be expected to stay out of the eye line of the young who you are constantly burdening with your cardigan-clad presence, a constant reminder of the insidious threat of their mortality.
If you thought last weeks episode on autism pulled at the heart strings this weeks subject of dementia is the equivalent of an Ethiopian baby with flies on his face. In
“We tell white lies all day long here. All day”
One such sufferer is ladies man Gary Gilliam who at 69 is Beatitudes youngest resident. We see him roaming the corridors trying to find the front door. Funny, mobile and intelligent on the face of it there is nothing wrong with him. Problem is he still thinks he is a practising dentist stationed on a military base. Every so often he will pack his bags thinking it was time to ship out only to be cajoled into staying by carers who “redirect” him by getting him to look at their teeth. He lives in a twilight world of partially remembered reality, a Groundhog Day of confusion.
When asked he tells Louis he isn’t married even though Carla his wife of 26 yrs comes to visit him every week. In fact during one of Louis visits he takes them both out to lunch but things get complicated when
“I don’t know what happens after that”
She is remarkably sanguine about the change in the dynamic of their relationship and his lack of recognition but perhaps she is just keeping a brave face for the cameras.
“I’m just his buddy…I realise it’s not him. It’s the disease”
What are her feelings at this point?
“I’ve always loved him. I’m so saddened by this. I never thought I’d see him in this position”
Another touching story is that of John & Nancy Vaughan. Not able to come up with the $4000 a month it takes for private care John 88, has no choice but to look after his 89yr old wife in throws of Alzheimer’s who has
“Many of the same needs as a very large toddler”
She still had the sparkle in her eye but her husband estimates that only about 30% Nancy’s mind is left intact. She struggles with the basic elements of memory such as her name and her husband had taken to wearing a name badge and to sticking their wedding photos on the wall to prove to her in her moments of confusion that he is her husband.
Nancy:“At this point? Nancy?”
Louis: “And your maiden name?”
“Are there any things that redirect Nancy to a positive place”?
“You’re the improvisation man”
Louis quickly runs out of ideas and the 5 hours he spends with Nancy turn into the longest day of his life. When John comes back Nancy doesn’t know who he is. After they get reacquainted Nancy asks her husband
“Do you like me?”
“Much more than that.”
Their relationship is love in its purest form. We should not pity them for they have been blessed with an all encompassing bond that most of us can only hope to emulate. They are the dictionary definition of till death us do part.
One panicked husband whose wife is rapidly falling victim to aggressive type of Alzheimer’s succinctly condenses the worry that all of us must feel when confronted with the problem
“What’s it going to be like when you’re with the person you have been with for so many years and they don’t remember you?”
Captivating, thought-provoking, funny and sad this might be Louis' finest work. You MUST watch this programme and can do so here.