01 April 2013

A physician blogs about the progression of his Alzheimer's

From a story in today's Washington Post:
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.

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.
This passage from the story particularly resonated for me:
“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.”

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