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Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Old Age Question Isn't Answered Here


My Dad isn't very well. For the past few years we've thought he was suffering from Altzheimer's - but two days ago I discovered that he is not! He's suffering from Dementia caused from a series of mini-strokes over a number of years. At least that's what the doctor thinks now!

I am not sure why he has been taking outrageously expensive drugs developed for people with Altzheimer's Disease. And I'm not sure why the diagnosis changed or even why it was made in the first place. And I'd like to know more about when these mini-strokes started and why.

Thankfully, my father recognizes all of us and still has the ability to speak and to reason -- but very slowly. My husband and I think it could have started with a botched cataract operation. It was immediately after that that he lost the will/interest/ability/who knows -- to talk about everything -- to have endless things to say -- to go on and on .... This was over twenty years ago. It's been a long and painful and very slow decline.

And needless to say there have been many 'should have done's' and 'wish we hads' along the way. We seem to know so little about getting old. Suddenly I'm there and I've no idea where I am. He wasn't but a few years older than I am now when he had that operation. What is 20 years any more -- it's almost here.

My father would rather nap now undisturbed. He is very very tired, but tries valiently to hold on. For the moment anyway he is in a nursing home -- unable to live with my mother, who sits with him every afternoon willing him to go on. Daily he goes through physical therapy -- tries to throw a ball or a bean bag -- it's difficult because the good eye that he did have from the successful cateract operation, now is afflicted by macula degeneration. He still tries very hard. But he is so tired all the time.

And as my parents struggle to come to terms with what their life has become they are also assaulted with the trials and tribulations of a whirlwind of complicated and expensive paperwork that must be written up and disseminated among various departments of medical and health care institutions that are probably what keep the economy of the United States going. This is a terrorism that is insidious and pervasive. It is engulfing and digesting the country as slowly and unremittingly as mini-strokes have been my father.

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