A flicker of anxiety arises as I pass through the locked doors to visit the Alzheimer’s residence of my ninety-three-year-old stepmother. Who is mentally and spiritually prepared to cope with demented old age? Not I. I am as addicted as any other American to possessing the freedom to pursue highly stimulating work and leisure. To be old, fragile, and dependent is bad enough, but to be demented is the most dreaded of fates.
My stepmother, Virginia, who until recently was extremely self-sufficient, is now afflicted with moderate Alzheimer’s disease. She resides in a well-designed and well-run facility that predictably charges a lot for its high quality of care. Luckily, money is not a problem because of Virginia’s lifelong thrift and shrewd investment of her widow’s pensions.
The real problem facing me as her executor was making the awful decision to move her to a locked facility against her stated wishes. For twenty years, she had happily resided in her apartment in a good retirement complex. But gradually it became apparent that she was becoming confused and disoriented. When she wandered away and got lost in the shopping center across the highway, I knew that the time had come to move her to the newly built residence for the “memory impaired.” Now at least she is safe and has her medical and nutritional needs monitored by an attentive staff.