Alzheimer: A Journey Together

Alzheimer: A Journey Together

Alzheimer: A Journey Together

Alzheimer: A Journey Together

Synopsis

Francesco Caracciolo was a successful architect and, with his wife Federica, also worked as photo reporter for the United Nations, travelling extensively throughout Africa and Asia. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and Francesco's rapidly vanishing independence put an end to their travels. With thoughtfulness and honesty, Federica tells of her experience of caring for her husband during his seven-year battle with Alzheimer's. She recounts the progression of the disease in all its distressing phases, revealing the very special relationship that developed between the carer and the patient and the inevitable reversal of roles. The author describes how her initial distress and irritation gave way to compassion and tenderness, and how in the end this terrible and devastating experience turned into a love story. While never losing sight of her husband's personality, she also offers strategies for coping with the solitude surrounding the couple in a society where mental illness is still looked upon with fear and dismay. This poignant first-hand account shares with the reader the remarkable realization that it is possible to emerge from the battle with Alzheimer's undefeated and, indeed, enriched. It will offer hope and courage to those with Alzheimer's, as well as their families and friends.

Excerpt

I park the car outside Sant'Eugenio Hospital in Rome and thread my way through the crowd of visitors, doctors and patients in pyjamas and dressing gowns, all enjoying a breath of fresh air. Ambulance sirens are wailing in the distance. I enter the large, stark and dismal hall and head towards the geriatric ward.

Today, as on every first Thursday of the month, the support group organized for the relatives of Alzheimer patients meets here. There are more people than usual and I see many new faces. At the start of the meeting, newcomers are always invited to speak. Some are ready to talk, others prefer silence, reluctant to describe their hardships in front of so many strangers. People of all ages are gathered together with the same aim: how best to deal with the Alzheimer patient, how best to answer his needs without losing one's sanity, how to cope with the moments of discouragement, helplessness or even merely irritation in the face of persistent irrationality, how to carry out the daily tasks without offending the sufferer's dignity, and how not to despair at the sight of a loved one inexorably slipping away a little more each day. These are the problems which a family must face and there is infinite pain in the eyes of those present, yet coupled with a desire to continue hoping.

Sometimes a spouse or a son or daughter hesitates to ask questions, fearing to lose their remaining illusions, clinging to . . .

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