Watching a Friend Fade Away: A Nurse’s Account of the Progress of Dementia

Illustration by Eric Collins, All rights reserved.

Illustration by Eric Collins, All rights reserved.

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been in the news. There have been major movies about what’s it’s like to suffer the gradual loss of the ability to understand and to negotiate the world around us, with leading roles played by stars like Julianne Moore. The challenges of caregiving are receiving increasing attention, as are the growing pressures on our medical system. Every month there’s a report of a new potential cure, or a potential cause, or ways we might be able to fend off the illness through exercise, mental calisthenics, diet, and medications.

The January Reflections essay, written by Deborah Lane, a critical care nurse and community volunteer in St. Augustine, Florida, is called “Watching a Friend Fade Away.” Here’s the opening paragraph:

Frankie was a fast wit, a ginger-headed joker, impeccably dressed, and the first to laugh. She was a master’s-educated teacher who developed programs for at-risk teens, teaching pregnant high school students skills for employment and effective childcare. She loved to cook and her home was warm with beautiful arts and crafts she had made. She was a wonderful friend. Disease changed it all.

The author brings the perspective of both a loving friend and a nurse to this short, beautifully told account of the changes in her friend over the years, the efforts of two couples to keep spending time together as they always have, the ways the author found to soothe her friend and communicate with her as her intellectual capacities changed.

What comes through most of all in this story of loss is respect, love, and attention. May we all be lucky enough to have such friends. The article is free, and well worth a read.

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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