At the time, he dismissed the incident as a bizarre memory lapse, perhaps a byproduct of his age, then 66. But now, two and a half years later, he recognizes it for what it was: one of the first major signs of his mind’s decline. Hilfiker has Alzheimer’s, a brain disease expected to afflict a record 14 million Americans by 2050, inflicting a terrible emotional and economic toll on communities, families, and the men and women who learn that their memories and identities will slowly be lost. For Hilfiker, a family doctor who has spent decades helping the District’s most vulnerable, that moment came six months ago.This passage from the story particularly resonated for me:
Since then, he has grappled with how to tell those around him, when to let go of responsibilities and, as a man who has always defined himself by his mind, who he will be when it’s gone. He has also taken the unusual step of chronicling his demise in a blog titled “Watching the Lights Go Out,” providing a sobering guide for the millions headed behind him into the darkness.
“If I live in the future, it’s a very painful disease,” Hilfiker said one recent afternoon as he sat at his kitchen table in Northwest Washington. “If I live in the present, it’s not.”