Alzheimer’s and Identity


I’m starting to think about my remarks for various speaking engagements in the upcoming months. And the primary matter rumbling around in my gray matter is identity.


Who are we with Alzheimer’s disease?

If we’re not acting like ourselves, are we still ourselves? But the self changes over the course of our existence. I am not who I was at 8 or 18 or 28 or 38.

We evolve. Or, in the wretched case of AD, we devolve.

One terrible side effect of Alzheimer’s is that it challenges/corrupts the identity of the people around the patient, too. The loss of identity is contagious.

You were a wife, but you became a caregiver.

You were a daughter, but suddenly you find yourself parenting a parent. Even from a distance.

You were a friend, but now you don’t know what to do or where you stand.

But the worst is yet to come. Once your loved one reaches the end–a shadow of their former selves, but still their own selves nonetheless–you have to redefine yourself all over again. Who will I be when he/she is gone? How will I remember my loved one who lost their memory and then their life?

Drug companies, doctors and researchers are grappling with the pharmaceutical answers to Alzheimer’s and identity. But who’s doing battle with the philosophical issues?


I’ll tell you who.

Everyone who loves someone with AD. Everyone who lost someone to AD. Anyone who thinks they’re next in line for AD.

The terrible and wonderful irony for me is that I’ve found an identity and voice in the loss of my father’s identity and voice. Does that mean that I’ve turned into him by taking up his cause?

We shall see, all of you and me.



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