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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Saying goodbye slowly

Alzheimer's brings pain, grace

Marie moved in with her daughter shortly after her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Sharon soon saw changes in her mother's speech and actions. Then things began disappearing. Manic episodes of folding and refolding clothes and emptying closets exhausted Marie, yet sleep eluded her. She left kitchen burners or water faucets on, and Sharon was exhausted. Tempers flared, tears flowed and life was miserable.

I was part of a group of parish visitors, and I encouraged Sharon to take her mother to a facility in town that provides respite care for people with dementia. Marie warmed to her daily visit at the center. Soon her disease worsened and she no longer spoke. Her walk became a shuffle, and her eyes seemed focused on something far away. She stood stiffly when the staff hugged her goodbye at the end of each day.

During my visits I saw Marie's lack of response to stimulus around her. Mute and expressionless, she was totally unaware of her surroundings. But the staff continued treating her as if she were alert and communicative.


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October issue

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