A Long Goodbye to Charlie

Have you ever physically hurt for the suffering of others?
I have a dear friend who has had TIA’s, Transient Ischemic Attacks,
and several strokes. The TIA’s and strokes take little pieces of him
away from me, his neighbors, and his friends. In February 2011 a
particularly critical stroke occured. After the CT Scans, MRI’s and
extensive tests it was determined that he has hardening of the blood
vessels in his brain. Essentially, Charlie will be losing small pieces
of his brain over an extended period of time. He will gradually lose
memories and physical capabilities. These losses will seem to be
random and unpredictable.

Meanwhile his wife, 12 years his senior, a cougar in today’s lingo has
had TIA’s of her own and mild congestive heart failure. In January 2011
Margaret would march through grocery stores at a pace a 21 year
old would find very hard to keep pace with. In the past 10 months,
Margaret has had 2 surgeries to clear her blocked carotid arteries.
She now needs a walker and oxygen full time. Margaret is no longer
capable to take care of Charlie by herself.

Charlie’s deterioration continues. He has lost his sense of days.
He falls asleep in a nap and wakes up thinking it is a new day.
Time to take his morning batch of pills. Oh, then there were the
instances of waking up in the middle of the night thinking he needed
to go towork. Ahhh the sad part is that he had retired 10 years ago.
His emotions are greatly affected by the TIA’s. He cries and sobs
frequently. He recognizes he is losing memories and capabilities.
Recently, he came down to the kitchen to make coffee as he has
30 years and cried when he could not understand how to make
coffee in the electric coffee pot. Charlie was found standing in
front of the coffee pot sobbing that he no longer knew how to make
coffee for Margaret and himself.

It was extremely painful to have to take Charlie to an Assisted Living
Home to stay while Margaret had her last surgery in November. It was
a tearful process. Yet, it provided an opportunity for professionals to
observe and provide analysis of Charlie’s current capabilities and
needs. It was found he needed more than just a little assistance.

It hurts to see this very intelligent and gentle man slowly slipping away.
It is anguish to see his enjoyment of reading great writers of our day
gradually lost in the fog of forgetting. My wife and I physically hurt
when his emotions get the best of him and he breakdowns and cries
or sobs. I know there are many other caregivers witnessing this slow
departure from life. Some have called it the “Long Goodbye”. It is a
goodbye experienced many times over.

There are support groups to help familes and friend who are dealing
with these issues. It is really helpful to participate in the support groups
as they provide guidance on how to handle situations and where to go
to get additional help. They save time, energy and emotional stress.
Although Charlie’s disease is not alzheimers the results are similar.
To find a Alzheimers Organization near you please use the following
link: http://www.alz.org/apps/findus.asp

Another organization providing informaion is AlzOnline. It provides
information, education and support to caregivers of persons with
Alzheimer’s and other progressive dementias like Charlie’s. A link
to their website is: alzonline.phhp.ufl.edu

I have empathy and prayers for those care givers experiencing this
trauma. May your sacrifices become jewels in your crown in the next
life. I offer my prayers and hopes to those friends and relatives who
are living and fighting these diseases. May your journey be gentle
and without strife.

Originally written: December 4, 2011

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4 responses to “A Long Goodbye to Charlie

  1. I watched this happen to my mom, only her progression was somewhat slower and less dramatic. We were compelled to put her in a nursing home toward the end, because she needed more care than my younger sister and her husband could provide. She lived another 16-1/2 months, and there was someone from the family with her almost every day of that time. It was an incredibly sad time in our lives, but on the other hand, we all got to say our goodbyes and express our love. I’ll pray for your friends and for all the people suffering from these terrible diseases.

  2. This brought back the years Mother suffered at the hands of cruel fate. Dementia is heartbreaking and you’re right … Every day is a new day. One day Mother sat at the computer and all she typed was gibber-gash! We both cried. She microwaved leftover fried oysters for six minutes. We could not allow her to boil water for coffee and she was within 20 feet of me 24/7 for the next 12 months. I watched this disease torment the family and take the sparkle from this woman I adored. My best friend whom I miss so much.

    Your friends will remain in my prayers and I suggest if he or she is placed in full-time care that the family and friends see them (if possible) every day, so they will not be neglected. that would be a sin and these people are like innocent lambs. God Bless!

    • Theresa, I agree a family member needs to be with him every day possible if placed in full-time care. We learned the lesson many years ago when a hospital overdosed a family member taken by ambulance to the emergency room. It was nearly fatal.

  3. Frank, this is so sad. I feel deeply for this man and his wife. A close friend of mine is going through a similar situation right now with her parents, both in their 90s. It is very painful to watch this process of life slowly ebbing away.

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