On this, the first Thanksgiving Day I will spend without any immediate members of my family still alive (I have a sister but we are estranged), I would like to give thanks to all the people who helped me while I was taking care of my mother, who died in August of 2009. The home aids who, like me, enjoyed her upbeat company and to the Hospice workers whose diligent care made her last few months more than just livable.
I would also like to make a more general comment on the attitudes displayed by our culture toward the terminally ill and their caregivers. From the first time I went to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for Aricept -- that Alzheimer's wonder drug now made infamous by those TV commercials depicting patients as zombie-like -- I was met by the stigma that is Alzheimer's. The pharmacist glumly forecast that this was going to be a lot harder on me than my mother.
Among friends and acquaintances, the mention of the word Alzheimer's was too often an immediate conversation stopper.
The American Dream, such as it is, does not include discomfort or even the mention of anything that will make one uncomfortable and possibly lose their focus on attaining that ever-elusive dream.
In these difficult economic times, it is my hope that people become more humble in their aims and more empathic toward those going through difficult times -- be they financial or health-wise.
It was a long and rambling road that got America to the top of the proverbial hill. Now that we have gotten there it would be nice to see some maturity -- in the way of showing more genuine caring and charity for others.
There are people all around us in need of something right now who will not tell you about it because of the stigma of not being a part of the dream, or, even worse, a drag on it.
Find them, encourage them, help them -- then when you give thanks for what you have it will mean that much more to you.
(Shortly, a memoir/guidebook I wrote on my experience of caring for my mother will appear on this website: An Alzheimer's Story.)