From Nemo to Dori. The inevitable truth about Alzheimer’s disease.

“Swimming, swimming, keep on swimming, just keep swimming.”

And eventually they found Nemo. The little courageous clown fish.  The fish with the half-fin who learned that being different or disabled doesn’t affect the size of your heart, it doesn’t restrict the potential of your spirit.  And Dori, the hilarious sidekick joining in on the adventure of a life time, even with her own short-term memory problem. Conquering the impossible by being a friend and having a great companion.

There is a disease raging through the minds of our elders.  A monster that devours memories and leaves behind desolate ruins of fear and insecurity.  A condition that affects people across the globe that morphs wondrous Nemo’s into tragic Dori’s.  And seeing the transition first hand, remains one of the saddest things to behold; because unlike Dori in the movie, the condition is irreversible.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease, is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death. It was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was named after him.[1] Most often, AD is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age,[2] although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur much earlier. In 2006, there were 26.6 million sufferers worldwide. Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally in 2050.

According to Wikipedia.

It remains one of the harshest realities of people entering their Golden years.  A destructive condition of the mind.  A disturbing disease that slowly consumes our loved ones from the inside.  And leaves an outer shell that’s filled with anger and fear, totally insecure and utterly helpless.

There are funny moments.  When granny wakes up and sees Son and greets him happily, only to repeat the greeting again, three minutes later when he exits the bathroom.  Or when Princess has to repeat the dinner menu five times, and she doesn’t have the understanding of keeping her replies short and sweet.

But once the humour dissipates and the smiles disappear, one is left with a deep sorrow.  A melancholic realisation that this person you love, this sweet, kind and generous soul, our granny…is fading away.  She’s becoming less of the person we know so well, she’s changing and it’s heart wrenching to observe.  Her gracious hospitality is morphing into an absurd insecurity.  Her adventurous spirit is dissolving into irrational fear.  Her generous and giving heart is turning into utter frustration.  For she knows.  And that is probably the saddest truth of it all:  They have enough comprehension to understand that they’re slipping away and there is nothing anyone can do.

Grandma is 81, and we all know that everyone will meet death at some point in our life.  It’s probably the only thing we can count on these days.  With children, grand children and great grand children she has lived a wondrous life, filled with love and oh so many memories.  Memories of her late husband, of many lost friends.  She blossomed as a widowed geriatric helping and assisting wherever she could in the beautiful retirement village she lives in.  And those moments and memories kept her going in the times when the family were not with her.  And this is why all the discussions and warnings would never have been enough to reduce the sadness I experienced when I saw our fragile, somewhat confused grandmother this weekend.

To me the inevitable truth about Alzheimer’s disease is not about repeating conversations, because for that we can grow patience.  It is not about the insecurity they live with, because for that we can show love and understanding.  It is not about their frustration for not remembering things, because for that we can show encouragement and support.  To me the worst part of the disease is when they start forgetting those they love.  When it reaches the point where there are strangers in their house and foreigners at the dinner table.  The inevitable truth of this disturbing reality is that some of our beloved grandparents don’t just grow old, they grow alone too.

They become a Dori, but without Nemo’s dad.

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27 thoughts on “From Nemo to Dori. The inevitable truth about Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. It is truly the worst disease. My husbands grandmother suffered from it too. It must be so frightening to have people come and visit and you have no idea who they are. And so hard for the family who will convince their loved one who they are, only to have to do it again next time.

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    • It’s terrible. Fortunately grandma is not at that point yet, unfortunately our other grandma, whom we lost some years back went beyond that point. It was the saddest thing ever. It seems we will be repeating that reality.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Such a sad and difficult journey. For the person suffering from Alzheimers and for their families and friends, who have to stand by and witness powerlessly how a once proud, wise mind disappears into a foggy cloud. Thinking of you and your family Pieter, and especially of your Ouma.

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  4. Alzheimer’s has to be among my greatest fears about growing older. If it happens to me, I will be none the wiser. No harm, no foul. But everyone around me will slowly start losing me. My wife, our daughter, our whatever-is-currently-baking… It’s like losing someone over and over again, while they are still alive and standing right in front of you. The thought of this creeping in around the edges of my or my wife’s mind is a truly terrifying thought.

    I’m sorry to read about this. This has got to be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.

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    • Im susprizex this post still get reaction as it was written more than two years ago. I was posted after having two grandmothers go through this atrocious experience before they died. It’s not pleasant but like you said they’re none the wiser. There is a song written by Glen Campbell about this disease called “I’m not gonna miss you”. Check it out. It’s hauntingly beautiful and extremely sad.

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  5. This is so sad. Towards the end of both my Dad’s and my big sister’s life – they seem to be drifting off to their own world. Their don’t have alzheimers, but it is because of their illness there were signs of alzheimers. Their memory were here and there. And it makes me sad that I can do nothing at all to reverse that. I am so sorry. Big Hugs to you my friends.

    Thank you for linking up with us and help to raise awareness of alzheimers on #FabFridayPost Xx

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  6. It’s a sad, sad disease. I have watched a lady reach her 90s but not know her own daughter and think that her own daughter was her mother. My Grandma is 89 and thankfully, although sometimes we have to repeat ourselves she is sound in mind. My Mum’s friend, who is in her 50s, is suffering with Alzheimers now. She no longer recognises us and her husband now has to take her everywhere. It is hear breaking. Sarah #FabFridayPost

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  9. You are so right. They do become Dori, just without Nemo’s Dad. In a way we have to be him tough. My Dad passed away end of February after suffering from Dementia for at least the last two years. He was in a beautiful specialized facility, well looked after by staff and my Mom. I was lucky enough to having had the chance to see him again and be with him until he left us. He recognized me (which nobody knew if he would) and he recognized the kids, which was a little surprise as he had not seen them for 5 years and let’s face it, they change a lot in 5 years. He wasn’t able to talk anymore just hold hands, kiss and let you know he knew who you were with his eyes and the sparkle in them. Dementia is brutal. For everyone involved. I do believe though, that there is this one layer in the dementia patient which remains untouched by the disease. An emotional one. The one that let’s them remember feelings for a certain person, remember the deep connection. In a way “there is more”.

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