Kicking Alzheimer’s Butt

By John Ward



So, time continues in its inexorable march, bullying the future into becoming the past and I am getting more forgetful with each new day. I read where researchers think they may be coming close to treating/preventing/curing Alzheimer’s disease, but I am fairly sure it won’t be in my lifetime.

To me Alzheimer’s disease is a fate worse than death, because of the hideous experience the afflicted family must endure, in addition to what the sufferer goes through. Not only that, but our existence on this planet is the sum total of our memories. Take that away and we might never have lived, loved, raged, laughed, enjoyed, cried, appreciated, travelled, learned, communicated, helped, created, etc. Also you can fall prey to the odd: “Remember you said you’d pay back that $100 loan I made you?”

It’s a horribly tragic disease. A film that accurately communicates the pain and loss is a Canadian production starring Julie Christie, called Away From Her, directed by Sarah Polley.

As the protagonist’s wife, the always talented and beautiful Julie Christie, sinks further and further into the abyss of dementia, her poor husband has to reconcile himself to putting her in an institution, specifically designed to support Alzheimer’s victims. In very little time she can’t remember who he is, although he visits her regularly.

After a while living in this institution, she meets another patient and believes she and he have a romantic attachment. When her husband comes to visit her, she asks him to stop his visits as it might upset her boyfriend. Her real husband has to reconcile himself to, not only losing the love of his life to dementia, but also losing her love and loyalty to another patient. He is forced, by his continuing love for his wife and his desire for her to be happy, to leave her alone with her new love. It’s a poignant movie.

I have told my wife that if I ever get Alzheimer’s, or some similar form of dementia that erases memories, she is to sit me down in front of the TV and put on Casablanca (my favorite film ever) on a continuing loop. Every day I will be entranced by this film for the first time and will rave to her about it... “Have you seen this movie?” I will ask, “It’s amazing, the best I’ve ever seen!” And she would just let me drift off into a Casablanca fantasy, where I identify with Humphrey Bogart and, in the end, wonder why the heck I let Ingrid Bergman leave with Paul Henreid!


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