BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
This morning was a good one; she remembered who I was.
When I tucked my elderly relative safely into her bed last night, as I’ve done every night for the last few years, I did so in the knowledge that she might not remember exactly who I was upon awakening. Alzheimer’s does that. It’s one of the many nasty little tricks this terrible disease plays, as each day it chips relentlessly away at the once-sharp mind of the innocent victim. Thankfully, she still trusts me, still understands I am going to help her. I know this might not always be the case.
Alzheimer’s is much misunderstood by those lucky enough not to have had to deal with it. The disease does not progress in a linear fashion. It affects each sufferer differently. There can be good days and bad. Perhaps most distressingly of all, patients realise that something is very wrong but don’t always understand exactly what it is. They can struggle to articulate what they are feeling. More than once I have witnessed her desperately try to explain a problem to her doctor, only to be frustrated by an inability to effectively describe her symptoms. It must be hell.
I’ve cared for her for several years. At times it is emotionally draining. I make mistakes. I’m sometimes not as patient as I could be. I just do the best I can. Financially it has been devastating. Her care needs are such that I am unable to work full-time. I am, at last, beginning to accept I will never make up these lost years. I do not know what my future holds. This is the reality of long-term care; I am not the only one in this position.
Would I then, given the chance, make the same choice again? Yes, of course. Unequivocally. It is enabling my much-loved relative to live out her remaining years with a degree of comfort and safety. Her disease has taken a heavy toll, but it hasn’t taken everything. She is still able to experience and enjoy her life. She delights in watching the robins in the garden and the spring daffodils beginning to emerge. In a few short weeks I will take her, as I did last year, to see the new-born lambs taking their first tentative steps in our reawakening world. She is able to talk, able to smile and still able to hoot with laughter at a favourite television programme. She is not, in short, a vegetable.
I’m no fan of online witch-hunts. Nor do I support abhorrent trolling. But I’m even less of a fan of spoiled celebrities who, having been afforded a lucrative career by the industry connections of their wealthy fathers, insinuate that Alzheimer’s sufferers have nothing left to offer. Yes, it’s a good idea for such people to step away from Twitter for a while and spend some time looking after those they so cruelly dismiss as ‘vegetables’. Maybe, who knows, they might even learn something of value.
Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here