When I typed this post up the first time, it was long and angry. It didn't make me feel better to go on the rant like I thought it would. So I thought about what it was that really upset me...for a few hours. Then, I deleted everything I had typed and started over. Hopefully, I am able to make my message clear.
Earlier this week, Pat Robertson, television evangelist, made a comment about Alzheimer's that did not sit well with me. He was asked by a viewer his opinion on a man choosing to date someone new after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Pat Robertson's response was "I know it sounds cruel, but he should divorce her and start all over again, just make sure she has custodial care." When asked about marriage vows which include "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health," Pat said “Alzheimer's is a kind of death.”
I am so blessed to be able to work with amazing individuals who have a dementia diagnosis. Alzheimer's is one of many forms of dementia. It is a cruel disease. I see firsthand everyday the heartbreak experienced by the spouses, children, and friends of individuals with dementia. If a man or woman makes the decision to marry again after a spouse is taken by this disease, it is not my place or anyone else's to judge them for that. No one knows the heartbreak of this disease like a spouse. What broke my heart about Pat Robertson's response is his lack of knowledge about this disease and his comparison of Alzheimer's to death.
A person stricken with dementia may forget people's names and faces. They may forget how to brush their teeth or chew food. They will need constant supervision to ensure their safety. One thing they never lose, however, is the ability to feel emotion. Just like an infant, they still feel love and warmth and compassion. They can also feel resentment, frustration, anger, etc. In my line of work, I get to show love and compassion to individuals with dementia every day. It is an amazing privelage that I never take for granted. Dementia is becoming more prevalent every day and the chances of developing some form of it myself are very high. I hope that if I ever find myself in that position, that I will be surrounded by people who take care of my emotional needs.
Dementia care is something I have become very passionate about. I could go on much longer...but I don't want to take away from the main message. Alzheimer's, or any form of dementia, is not death. Death is death, that definition is pretty clear. Someone with Alzherimer's has the ability to feel love until the very end...and they deserve to feel that love. That is all...for now:)