Alzheimer's disease is marching through my friend Gord's brain towards its inevitable conclusion, leaving in its wake a path of destruction, fear, confusion, anger, tears and despair. One moment he is standing high atop a mountain and the next, sinking in quicksand, followed by the loneliness of standing in a forest of thick fog, wondering which way to turn. This is the reality of Alzheimer's and a reality he understands and faces with the support and love of his family and friends but in real time, a reality he faces alone. Now, already unable to read, drive a car, assemble shapes and colours into something understandable, unsure of what to order from a restaurant menu; he finds himself without the freedom of movement he has enjoyed his whole life. He can only leave his home when someone takes him for fear of getting lost and confused. He bears witness to this slide into hell with courage and a positive attitude while he watches, unable to stop the essence of himself from oozing between his fingers like mud in a thunderstorm of confusion.
Gord and the tower of strength that he is married to, have decided that they want to make a difference for other people who suffer from Alzheimer's by making their own story known and by organizing an annual golf tournament to raise funds to help those of us who might find ourselves fighting our own battle in years to come. The first annual Gord's Game for Alzheimer's will take place at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course on September 2, 2010 and a committee of volunteers is busy creating an event that will be worthy of Gord and Brenda's courage. Its purpose is twofold; to raise money for the effort to find a cure and secondly to raise awareness in you and I of the possibility that lurks in the recesses of our own minds.
While much is known about the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's, such as using our brains to solve puzzles, keeping it stimulated every day by problem solving along with some emerging information about diet and nutrition, there is no cure for those people diagnosed. The result is a passive level of dismissal from many corners of the medical profession and there are very few resources devoted to caring for patients and their families, even though the incidence rate is expected to climb through the roof in the next decade or two. It is a disease left hidden behind the closed doors of old folks homes and the nervous butt of humour by those of us approaching that "age and stage." The sad reality is that there are now thousands of people in North America, in their 50's, who are already exhibiting the symptoms of this devastating disease and who are undiagnosed because everyone assumes that it is an old person's illness. Gord is now 60 and unfortunately there was evidence of something being amiss 5 or 6 years ago, but it was dismissed by all of us, including his doctor.
We have much to learn from Gord about Alzheimer's, about the need to watch out for each other, about the need for better facilities, training, testing and resources, about courage, about the care and feeding of our most precious resource and about living a life of love, honour and selflessness.
Gord's game for Alzheimer's - are you too?