It should be noted that not everyone who has Alzheimer’s Disease is like my father, who is mild mannered, well behaved, and very much not violent. He has his moments when he is terribly naughty, and can lose it when we’re not home, and he’s sundowning late in the afternoon, but it doesn’t happen often. I have a friend whose father turned violent. That’s a completely different story.
I’m not a football fan. This said, I’d never heard of Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos until the other day, when news that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Like Ronald Reagan, Glen Campbell, and many other sufferers of the disease, he’s going to be tossed aside. He has kept his disease private – read his family is too ashamed of him to let the truth come out.
Nothing is worse for a person inflicted with the disease than to be tossed aside and not allowed to go about their day, as much as possible. I heard one of the officials from the Broncos say how much he going to miss seeing Bowlen come into the office. That is what is so disturbing, and is the norm for high profile individuals who have the disease. Lock ’em up and don’t let them be seen, ever again, just like the Reagan family did with the former president. What they did with him was deplorable, setting the pattern for everyone else. The moment impairment begins, the person who has the disease is to be shunned, locked up in what is little more than a kennel, ignored and forgotten by their family and society. They are to be degraded, treated with no respect, and generally have the medical community strip them of their dignity and their humanity.
I’ve seen it first hand with my father. Every medical individual we encounter always asks what our plans are. When are we going to do something ‘with’ him, like he is a rabid dog, to be locked up, then put our of our misery. No matter that aside from the fact that he’s like a naughty three year old, most of the time, he’s still a very viable human, who loves going out, dining in restaurants (where his manners are excellent). He likes company, visiting, and loves his dog and his cats. He has a comfortable home with his cowboy books right at hand. Sure, he steals everyone’s glasses, and puts his dirty laundry in my mother’s various drawers, but he still has his dignity. He wants to get up and get dressed, in a suit and tie, every day – thereby driving my mother crazy. So what if he doesn’t make it to the toilet on time. We’ve solved that problem with Depends.
The thought of putting him in some home, where he would be neglected, ignored, and allowed to fall, break a hip and die a few days later is disgusting, but that is what happens, more often than not. The other day, we were heading to a doctor’s appointment. My father was having difficulty getting out of the car. He said he was going to move his right foot first. I mentioned if he were stuck in an old fart day care they’d have him singing the Hokey Pokey like they would in day care. He was not amused. Neither was I, at the thought of something like that.
I read somewhere that Glen Campbell’s friends would visit, and find him in a group setting with other people with families who don’t give a damn about then, singing nursery songs. That is disgusting. The man should be allowed to be in his home, with dignity. The thought of doing something like that to my father makes me furious.
Sure, my mother was threatening to shoot him the other evening when she found his dirty laundry in her nightstand drawers, but she doesn’t have any bullets for a gun that is hidden some where. It’s an idol threat to express her absolute annoyance. But, that’s life. To put him away in some kennel, to die, because of things like that is disgusting.
I feel sorry for Pat Bowlen. It’s too bad his family doesn’t love him enough to let him coast into the final stages of AD with dignity, doing what he loved most, or pretending that he does. What they have done to him harms everyone who is suffering from the disease. People who are seriously mentally ill are allowed to be in society. People who have Downs are mainstreamed. Why the heck can’t those who have AD be treated with the same amount of humanity?
The photo of my father and Princess Sadie were taken a few weeks ago. Why on earth would you lock him up and rob him of his dignity?