[photo courtesy of the Estate of Carl Smith]
Here is the second installment of journal entries by Carl Smith, nonagenarian, retired Presbyterian minister, father to my friend Bill, who is editing his father’s writings, and husband to a woman, Mary Helen, who had dementia for at least the last decade of her life. The journal entries are both heartbreaking and hopeful, in addition to being a simply lovely piece of prose. The writer in me salutes both the words and the gut-wrenching sentiment that went into creating them. As both Mr. Smiths point out, with demential patients, communication is key.
“Just a Couple of Old People Holding Hands”:
A Memoir of a Marriage in Alzheimer’s World
By Carl R. Smith, Jr.
Edited and introduction by William C. Smith
For those who love and care for Alzheimer’s patients, communication is one of the most confounding aspects of the disease.
When symptoms of dementia first develop, family and friends become concerned, and sometimes frustrated, with our loved ones’ mental lapses, bouts of confusion, and choppy speech. We are quick — too quick sometimes — to fill in the perceived gaps in their memory. When they struggle for words, we make semi-informed guesses to complete their sentences. Naturally, they get agitated if we guess wrong, or become embarrassed when their bumbling tongues can no longer keep pace with their racing minds. read more here…