One Family's Journey Through Alzheimer's; Walsh (Excerpt)

One Family's Journey Through Alzheimer's Disease by Mary B. Walsh

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October '91
Visit to the Dentist

Gram lost a tooth—a front one.
Although at a point where she was not really aware of it, we felt that if she was she would want to have it taken care of.

When I called the dentist’s office to make an appointment I asked the receptionist to make a note that she has Alzheimer’s. I wanted the dentist to be prepared for....whatever.

When Gram met the dentist she greeted him with a smile so broad he didn’t have to ask why we were there.
"I see you’ve lost a tooth, Mrs.Walsh!"
She continued to smile.
"My, but you’re a handsome man! Don’t you think so. darling?" she asked looking over at me.

"Do you think you could sit in this chair, Mrs.Walsh, and we’ll take a look to see what needs to be done?"
"My, what a lovely chair it is! Certainly!"

She positioned herself carefully in the chair and as the dentist slowly lowered her head preparing to get to work, she looked intently up into his"handsome" face. He took some impressions so he could have a partial plate made to replace her missing . When he finished he raised the chair.


The word "respite" to the care giver is as the word "oasis" to the parched, weary desert traveler. Webster defines it as "…temporary relief, as from work or pain". I had heard the word a number of times throughout our years caring for "Gram", always alluded to as something far-off and almost unattainable

It brought to mind pleasant thoughts of "relaxation", strolling leisurely along a white sandy beach, collecting rare and beautiful shells as the sunlit aqua waves rolled in, refreshing my bare sandy feet. Having completed my collection; starfish, perhaps a sand-dollar or two, oyster (with a rare pearl awaiting my discovery no doubt), I could see the blanket spread out beneath the golden rays of the mid-day sun, inviting me to spend the rest of the day doing…absolutely nothing! (..aside from perhaps beginning a new chapter of my book in progress while sipping a tall glass of ice tea with a sliver of real lemon….)

After six years of caring for Gram we were finally able to arrange a "respite" for the family.

s I look back now to that fanciful ocean scene I am amused. Why does a picture come to mind instead of a desert traveler, dying of thirst, skin blistered from the brutal sun, crawling with his last ounce of strength to reach that oasis, only to find that it was only a ….mirage?

The following is a journal entry relating some of the "events" of our long awaited "respite"….

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