Alzheimer's blog

An incomparable act of heroism

By Angela Lunde September 17, 2010

The last series of blog entries underscores that each of us is on a similar, yet very different, journey. I like how Annette put it: "Each one of you fights a different battle, but in my eyes you're all angels. Let's soldier on!"

In the past, I've written some about a program we offer at Mayo Clinic called HABIT (Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking). The 10-day, 50-hour program is designed for persons with mild cognitive impairment and a care partner (generally a spouse).

One of the incredible outcomes of this program is the transformation that takes place between some couples as they move toward accepting (keeping in mind that accepting is not the same as liking) the situation they are faced with. More importantly, couples begin to pull together at a time when uncertainty and fear can unravel even the strongest, most loving relationships.

During a HABIT therapy session last month one of my colleagues witnessed an incomparable act of heroism — a testament to how brave one can be who is facing the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or a dementia. A woman in her late 50s who has been told she's developing Alzheimer's requested that the therapy session with her and her husband focus on "the end game."

Mind you, talking casually to her you would have no idea that anything was wrong. In this therapy session, she began to tell her husband what she wanted for him (the caregiver) at the time when she became so impaired that she didn't recognize him any longer. These are some of her words:

"... Most importantly Tom, take care of and be kind to yourself. Seek companionship — you should not be alone or lonely. Use any and all resources to help care for me; do not take on the role of caregiving by yourself, nobody should. Know now that I will miss you and everything about us, especially our long walks together."

The husband and the therapist said nothing, they could only weep and admire her strength, generosity and courage.

There can be no greater gift then telling those you love what you want and wish for them in the end.

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Sep. 17, 2010