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Love and Alzheimer's Disease I

On May 21st, my wife Jean and I will travel to Philadelphia where she and 3 friends from the first grade at St. Rita's Catholic School in Philadelphia will attend Mass at the Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia on her feast day. Jean and her friends have been faithfully doing this for 81 years. It is a prayerful and joyous occasion, one that we hope to continue for as long as we can.

St. Rita and the Blessed Mother have been at the root of Jean's Catholic faith. They have brought her deep into the mystery of Jesus. When asked, how do you cope with Alzheimer's disease, Jean answers: “I put one hand in the hand of St. Rita, the other hand in the hand of Mary and with their help walk the path that Jesus has chosen for me.”

To the medical profession, Jeans ability to function, her happy, joyful days interacting with her family and friends after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than 20 - 25 years ago is quite remarkable. She is competent in all the activities of daily living (dressing, washing, eating, cleaning, etc.), continues to write checks, handles telephone calls and still makes the homemade pizza that her family enjoys every Friday night.

The hallmark of dementia of the Alzheimer type of course is loss of recent memory. And Jean's memory has not escaped the effects of her disease.

Dealing with memory loss in many patients can become stressful to them and their caregivers. Does memory loss have an upside? Perhaps. Small tiffs between husband and wife are quickly forgotten as if they never occurred.

Another is the sweet goodnight kiss that Jean never fails to give me. Sometimes it is only one goodnight kiss; sometimes she forgets and I get two and, at other times, even three.

I never refuse the second or the third. I cherish each.

Grace and Love bursting through, unconquered by the veil of Alzheimer's disease.

Robert Luchi