‘As an activity director at a day care center for the memory-impaired, I often ask myself what I have learned from being with people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. One day I realized that the mind and the soul are separate. ‘
‘Once, I posed a moral dilemma to the members of the day care center. I said; There is a man driving his car on a cold, stormy night. He sees three people stranded at the side of the road. One is the woman of his dreams, the second is the doctor who once saved his life and the third is an old woman. He only has room for two passengers. Who does he leave behind?’ An Alzheimer patient at the center, who is so far into his Alzheimer’s that he can’t find his way home although it is next door, responded. Without appearing to contemplate the choices he said simply; ‘I would get out of my car and give it to the three of them.’
‘Abby, another of our members, is a Holocaust survivor who survived the war by living in a Christian orphanage. One morning the lady sitting next to her kept repeating; “Help me, help me. Somebody help me.”
Abby, who no longer recognizes her only son, leaned in close to the other lady. ‘What is it, dear?’ she asked. ‘Are you scared? Do you want to go home? We are all in this together. You just have to make the best of it and stay out of trouble.’ Then Abby picked up the other lady’s spoon and began to feed her.’
‘I watched, observing the behavior of these old folks who live in a twilight zone. And I thought how well Abby had described the situation. Here we are together in this world of nonsense and materialism and our souls are not happy. The best we can do is help others in need.
If I have learned one lesson from working with these people suffering from dementia, it is this: Work on yourself and strive to perfect your character. Because when most of your intellectual powers are gone, the kernel that remains will be who you really are.