“I have Alzheimer's disease. It is a disease that diminishes my capacity to communicate and to understand.
"Honor me as a person. Though I am not that person I used to be and that you know so well, please help to find me inside of myself and bring out those qualities in me that I was always proud of and that others enjoyed. I want and deserve a quality of life.
"Please don't ask me to remember things. Asking me if I remember just having lunch when I tell you I am hungry makes me nervous and upset. Try not to be embarrassed when I rename objects or say things that don't make sense. I truly want to apologize that I can't remember those things, but my mind is such that I cannot even say or remember those words. Just go along with my conversation.
"Among many things, I love children, pets, furry things, sweets and I love music. I like to help and I need to help because, like you, I need to have a purpose in my life. Maybe I can't follow a recipe or set the table in the right way, or button my shirt or put my clothes on correctly, but please promote my self-esteem by acknowledging my small successes each day. Please know that I am trying, really trying as hard as I can.
"Please protect me. My world is very fearful now. There are people around me. I don't know their names anymore. Some are strangers. You take me places I am unsure of and sometimes people stare or jeer at me when my words are jumbled as I explain something, when I repeat myself over and over or when my feet shuffle and I am not as quick to find a chair as I once was. I love and need someone I know around me most of the time so I won't be so scared. I need to see your smile — a lot. And I need prayer.
"Please tell my friends and relatives not to forget me. I need them, too. I need them to come visit me, even if it's just to sit by me and listen to me tell old stories repeatedly. I know they may be uncomfortable and not know what to say, but all they have to say is 'hello' and give an assuring smile and it will comfort me.
"Be patient with me above all else. I know caring for me is very stressful and that I am probably going to eventually strain every nerve in your body throughout the journey of this disease, but it is not my purpose or desire. When I grow anxious and agitated, it's only because you are not understanding what I need. Sometimes I will get so frustrated because you can't understand me and I may lash out at you, maybe swinging my arms or calling you awful names that you never anticipated. Or sometimes I might reach to hit you; I can't help myself, and I know you know that I would never act that way. It's just that when brain cells start deteriorating, and I am overwrought because no one understands me, that these unimaginable behaviors erupt.
"Be my memory. Know what I liked and didn't like. Know that I would dress better in public and that my hair would be properly combed. Know that I wouldn't want food remnants on my face or clothes. Know that I would follow proper hygiene, even though bathing and grooming are my most vulnerable times, and times in which I experience most of my anxiety. Know that I would want you to be my advocate, always, and to share with others your journey with me so that, in turn, it might help them in some way.
"I would not want you to suffer any guilt about the 'could haves, should haves or would haves' in our lives or abandon your own health concerns while caring for me. And, lastly, please know down deep inside that I am so grateful for you in every way. Though I cannot communicate or express as such, watch the glimmer in my eye or the makings of a smile or a touch of my finger when you are caring for me. I truly want to thank you for the tremendous responsibility it is in caring for me. And, I want you to know that I would not journey this disease with anyone else but you. More than anything, I want to cherish the moments we share together and savor those "present moments" that we still can have. I love you.”
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at email@example.com or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.