Alzheimer’s Friendship

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Last week I had lunch with a new friend.

A month or so earlier I received an email from E responding to a post. She mentioned that we once met at a support group meeting run by the Emory Brain Center. I didn’t recognize E’s name so wasn’t sure who she was; because of the distance involved, I attend the support group infrequently at best and haven’t been back for ages.

But as soon as I saw E in person, I remembered her. I remembered sitting across the conference table from an attractive woman whose name I didn’t catch and thinking  she is really angry—angry and exhausted—and what’s more, she’s willing to admit it! She had recently convinced her husband to downsize their home, only to realize in the selling, packing and moving that her husband was more incapacitated than she’d realized. Scrunched down in my seat, listening to E talk so honestly, I recognized that I was not facing my own complicated mix of anger, stress and protectiveness toward Ralph. E’s directness and her honesty were a truly liberating epiphany.

Now here we were over a year later, sitting in a café catching up, and as E said, it was “like looking in a mirror.” Our husbands had different careers but in many ways we shared similar lives before they were diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment within months of each other and began seeing the same neurologist at the Emory Brain Center. Now both men are enrolled in the same Merck study I have written about . They both are devoted to their dog. And E and I are both…. Well, we are that same complicated mix of stress and protectiveness.

As E and I sat and talked over our salads last week One of us would begin a sentence and the other would be able it finish it. We didn’t have to sugarcoat, we didn’t have to explain. The words poured out. Being with E was so relaxing.

We lingered and lingered and then we went back to E’s house and talked some more. I drove away almost giddy with excitement, the way I felt at ten or eighteen when I met a new friend.

When Ralph was first diagnosed, one of the vows I made to myself was that I was going to maintain my life, that I would keep my friendships. And I have. In fact I have a larger circle of friends and more active social life than I used to. I have worked at building a network, professional writer friends, volunteer organization friends, political friends, literary friends, movie going friends, fun and conversation friends, family friends.

And online friends through the Memoryland community—and it feels to me like a community—along with other caregiver/caregivee blog communities.

Now I have an actual Alzheimer’s friend.

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16 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Friendship

  1. Newer on this journey than some of you but reading of your “a ha” moments with E made me realize that it’s TIME for my spouse with MCI & I to get to a support group in our area–we have many many supportive people in our lives & many who had parents with dementia but none with a partner with cognitive impairment….THANK YOU for your posts-so helpful!
    Alice too

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    1. Thanks for writing Alice and glad you found me. The support from someone going through the same experience gives a chance to breathe deeply, share honestly and know we are really understood.

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  2. Pleased to hear you’ve re-connected with someone who shares similar experiences as yours. So much easier to communicate I think, as you so ably describe. I’m a strong believer in how important it is for caregivers to take good care of the emotional and physical health — benefits themselves and the person for whom they’re caring. Helpful to others you share your experience here.

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  3. Lovely post. I could feel your excitement fizzing as I read your words. I’m so pleased you have an ‘actual’ friend who knows how it is. It was something I never really had as most of the caregivers I met were older than me and caring for spouses rather than a parent. I was glad to have my sister around but it would have been good to have someone else outside of family. Enjoy your friendship with E.

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      1. You were definitely fizzing! Yes, I do as I value yours. I remember when I first started blogging, not knowing if anyone would ever read my posts, the buzz I got when people responded and clearly ‘got’ where I was coming from.

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  4. Well said and ditto for me. I have a Propriecetive Writing group on Tuesday nights, and I wrote pretty much the same thoughts, except not as eloquently. New friendships are precious, even if crafted around loss.

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      1. It is a strange term for writing. I’m not sure I understand it completely. We write twice for 20 minutes and read to each other with no comments. The most uninterrupted listening I ever have!

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  5. I think this is a wonderful reminder to all of us to do our best to maintain our lives through and while caring for our loved one. Even though we have chosen to be good caregivers, it is so important to remember that our lives matter to, and that we have things that we can still contribute to the world.

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