The last few days tending to my father, who is living in a heavy and thick Alzheimer's fog with emphysema come to call after sixty-five years worth of cigarettes, certainly make me agree with that.
Maybe it's not so bad for the patient, past a point. Memory goes, words don't have meaning, no history, good or bad, is attached to the faces you see. Short returns to awareness don't stick; no past, no future, and the present is mostly blurry. The night terrors fade with daylight, unrecalled.
"Where is Mama? Tell her to come here!"
"She's in the wheelchair. She had a stroke, she can't walk over here."
"A stroke? Nobody told me."
"Yes, we did. You just can't remember."
When your mind is gone, what do you miss it with?
The people around you notice. The disease robs them, too. When your father looks at you and asks Who you are? When he gets up at 3 a.m. to go pee and stands in front of the toilet asking, "What do I do now?" Or, sitting on the bed, wonders where he is suposed to sleep? Or, outraged at some phantom inside his head, slaps at you in fear and anger? That's hard. When the most frequent word he speaks is "What?" Followed by "I don't know what I'm supposed to do." Or, banging on the wall and yelling in the middle of the night, "I need help!" and when you ask what the problem is, he doesn't know. Or he says "It doesn't matter, I'll be dead before morning!" Dressing, showering, shaving, teeth-brushing, all like climbing Everest without oxygen.
Or the other things that are too much information ...
You know what the good thing is about emphysema so bad you can barely breathe? When you yell for people in the middle of the night, the breathless rasp is not as loud as it would be otherwise. There is a silver-lining for you, hey?
And is it any better that you disliked the man most of your life? Grew up in fear of his quick temper and equally-quick willingness to use his hands when he lost it?
Bad days and not-so-bad ones, but none that are really good and knowing that the progression is only going to get worse. Like watching a dropped ball bounce, lower with each rebound, going to stop in the not-too-distant future.
It's a terrible war, fighting Alzheimer's and worse because not only are you going to lose, you can't even slow it down once it takes hold. If the body outlives your brain, the care goes to 24/7, and doing it at home without somebody who is always there, all the time, becomes untenable.
And that rough beast is slouching round my parent's house. My sister doesn't want to know that, but it's just outside the door and about to knock.
The Who was just a rock band, but they had something in that lyric.
Excuse me. I need to go do some push-ups and work a crossworld puzzle and wash down some vitamins with a spinach smoothie ...