“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”
— Robert Browning
As a rehabilitation medicine specialist I do a lot of work with cognitively impaired men and women. The brain is a fragile and fascinating organ, and perhaps the most perplexing one to treat. Alzheimer’s disease, of course, has no known cure – and those who contract it meander through a frustrating cognitive web towards a final common pathway of dementia, dependence and eventually death.
Former Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has been in the news lately because her husband, an Alzheimer’s patient who requires nursing home assistance for activities of daily living, has forgotten who she is. But even more emotionally difficult is the fact that he has fallen in love with a fellow nursing home resident, and has been behaving like a love-sick teen – holding hands, staring into her eyes and kissing her tenderly.
The New York Times reports that Ms. O’Connor is “happy for her husband” that he has found joy in the midst of his cognitive decline. I wonder if there truly isn’t part of her that mourns the loss of those kisses that were once for her.
My fondest hope is that I can grow old with my husband, and that we will enjoy our final years together, in possession of all our faculties. I hope that Robert Browning’s poem will ring true at the end, and that I never have to watch my husband forget who I am. Sadly, since my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s – I wonder if it will be my husband, and not me, who watches the other decline?This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.