I have been practicing medicine for many years and have watched several elderly patients age year by year. What makes me most emotional is that they gradually lose their memory and forget who they and the people around them are.
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that torments patients and their loved ones!
When an elderly person slowly loses everything, and even the most precious memories are taken away by the ruthless disease, it is such a helpless thing!
I have been treating this elderly woman for several years. She has been coming to the clinic for follow-up treatment for various chronic diseases. Every time she comes, she is very excited to tell me about her condition and life.
Sometimes as soon as I open my chat box, I will talk non-stop. Her daughter would be there to remind her that I still had many patients waiting outside the clinic before she could stop! Her daughter told me that no matter how big or small her illness was, she just came to me for treatment. When I am away, she would rather wait until she comes back from vacation to come to me for follow-up consultation as soon as possible; every time she comes for follow-up consultation, she will buy me some pastries or snacks. I feel very lucky to have an old patient who trusts me so much.
But “people are not as good as a thousand days, and flowers are not as bright as a hundred days.” Two years ago, her memory began to slowly fade. At first she still remembered me, but she spoke less and less, and the conversation was not so lively. Later, when she came for follow-up consultation, she had forgotten my name. Her children reminded her: “He is Dr. Wu who has been treating you for many years and has always insisted on seeing you!”
She answered hesitantly: “Yes, yes!” A few months later, her dementia symptoms became more severe. She has even forgotten who the children around her are, and of course she has completely forgotten who I am.
When she came for follow-up consultation, I saw her dull eyes looking at everything around her silently, which made me feel very sad. When she saw me before, she happily called me: “Doctor Wu! Doctor Wu.” Now every time I see me, I ask my relatives: “Who is he?” The good doctor-patient relationship we have built over the years has been lost due to this memory-destroying dementia.
Erase me from her memory
Although I can still treat her other chronic diseases, I am still helpless about the dementia that steals years and memories! When Alzheimer’s disease slowly erases me from her memory, even though I am just a doctor who treats her, I will feel sad, so I believe that her loved ones will be even more painful.
At this point, I suddenly remembered two songs about aging. “When You Get Old” sung by Karen Mok -:
When you get old your hair turns gray
Drowsiness when you are old
Unable to walk anymore, I took a nap by the fire.
Although the patient with dementia can no longer share her feelings with me, maybe she is still recalling her youth in her mind!
There is another earlier Taiwanese song “When We Are Old” -:
when we get old
Maybe the voice gradually becomes hoarse
But there is no need to say anymore, let silence embrace you and me
when we get old
Maybe you will tell me quietly
There are so many past events that I no longer remember
The hands of time have taken away the dreamy youth
Today’s memories may linger again
Old age has made her voice hoarse, and dementia has made her silent. Now all she cares about is a pair of hands that support her. Before we forget who each other is, let’s cherish the memories we created together!
(Guangming Daily/Doctor Column‧Author: Wu Rongliang)