As we are all discovering, longer life is a mixed blessing. Around 50% of people over age 85 have some form of dementia, usually Alzheimer’s. We can imagine a time, sooner rather than later, where it will strike nearly every family in America. How will our conversations change?
Dr. David Hilfiker, a 68-year-old retired physician and writer, was diagnosed in September 2012. With great generosity – and courage — he is offering his own experience as a gift to others. In his blog, “Watching the Lights Go Out” he writes with excruciating honesty of the changes he observes in his own mind and emotions. A surprise is that some of them are positive. He is able to experience joy and emotional expression that he previously lacked. Especially helpful are his descriptions of conversations he found supportive and others that were painful to hear. (See, for example, the entry and comments for June 10.)
Since Washington Post and Good Morning America interviews, Hilfiker’s blog has had more than 50,000 hits. It is feeding an obvious hunger. Particularly moving are the comments from other people with Alzheimer’s and their care givers, who have found in Hilfiker an articulate voice. The blog has become an online support group.
If you have a loved one with dementia, I recommend you take a look (and show it to them also):