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Living with Alzheimer's Disease

by Robert G Hawley Jr, person with younger onset Alzheimer's disease

When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's diseease at the age of 64, I was shocked and incredulous. At first I didn't believe it. Almost severn years later I have accepted it and the restrictions that come with it, but not without regret. I can sense now that I am slowly fading away (as slowly as I can muster and my meds can facilitate).

In many ways my life has significantly changed. Once an independent adult, making my own decisions and having a voice in decisions of our family, I am now more dependent and less in charge, although I stil do participate in family decisions and planning. The tool chest in the basement is not as much in use anymore, and often is used more by my wife than by me. Once prooud of what prowess I had, Inow find myself more often struggling to cope and needing assistance in doing family projects. Once a coequal partner with my wife, I am now more and more dependent on her for directions and for dealing with my slowly increasing confusion. I have regular fitness regime at Edwards Heealth and Fitness Center, and I really believe that it helps to slow the progression of the disease along with making my body and my brain more supple and strong. 

I feel no guilt for the burden I have become for my family; I didn't scheme to be this way, but I do feel some despair. However, I try to make the best of every day, be as little burden as i can, and to rejoice in what I still have. I have love, a home, a family I am proud of, and a connection to the braoder world, with memories of travels we have taken and sites we have seen. We have visited many of the states in the United States, lived in Australia for nine months, have visited Mesico, the Baltic States, Germany, the Czech Republic, St. Petersburg in Russia, italy, England and Canada. I have also, throug the Insitites of Cultrual Affairds where I worked for some years, visited Jamacia, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur. 

As I write these words, flashes of memory bring them back to me almost like a travelogue, and renew my sense of wonder.

I don't know what the next stage will be or how soon it will manifest itself in my consciousness, but whatever comes will come and we will deal with it and roll with it. I am thankful for all the support and care that my family and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center staff at Rush Hospital have given me. God bless you all.