Baby boomers and Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, a perfect fit

alzheimersWarriorwith apostrophe resized for kdp

 

With the coming of the new year it is easy for us to forget those dear souls who have nothing to look forward to but the interminable scourge of Alzheimer’s disease.

Those of you who follow my blog realize that AD is not an academic issue for me. I watched my mother’s terrible ten-year descent into it, an ordeal that ended a few years ago with the only outcome available, the extinguishing of the bright light of her soul.

When I began to write professionally, I found myself drawn to AD as a subject that cried out to me.  I had read Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  Her novel portrays the coming of early on-set Alzheimer’s to a Harvard professor. It is a fine book which doesn’t pull any punches. But, the truth of the matter is that early on-set is a small fraction of the cases. Most people who have the disease become symptomatic late in life, in what we often call the golden years, the years people hope to spend enjoying the fruits of their labors.

So, when I wrote about AD, I decided to focus on that older age group, the parents of the baby boomers,  members of the greatest generation who now fight their last heroic battle.

If you have spent much time around persons with Alzheimer’s, you realize that our society treats them like people of prior years treated lepers.  They shun them if they can, turn their heads, pretend the persons do not exist, relegate them to back wards of nursing homes.

It is a crying shame.

Persons with Alzheimer’s remain vital human beings, people who continue to feel deeply, to long for interaction with their friends and loved ones. The disease may have robbed them of their memories, but we don’t have to assist its carnage by stripping them of their dignity.

These are the sorts of thoughts that flooded my mind as I wrote what became The Warrior With Alzheimer’s: The Battle for Justice.  Woody Wilson is a WWII vet with AD who goes on the run.  Along the way, he encounters the American criminal justice system, a system ill-equipped to deal with some one like him. While his son and his wife of sixty years agonize over Woody’s plight, he continues to move forward.  He shows what a real man is made of, what the power of love can do even in the altered world of his new consciousness.

Still Alice

On these pages at VG in recent weeks, we have seen a growing discussion of baby boomer literature.  It is a developing genre that embraces the coming of age, but rails against caricatures. Many boomers have walked the same trail as I.  They have seen Alzheimer’s up close and personal.  To them it isn’t a theoretical construct, a parlor game .  It is a gut-wrenching reality.

The baby boomers stand at the crossroads of Alzheimer’s, its intersection with the lives of those already stricken and those who see it coming. As such, the boomers occupy a unique place.

The way boomers respond may tell the tale of Alzheimer’s for the first half of this century. I pray that we will take arms against this sea of trouble and by opposing end it.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author. Click here to see his novel, The Warrior With Alzheimer’s: The Battle for Justice in the Kindle store.)

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