Last week when Gene Wilder passed away, his family issued a moving statement about his final season. They spoke of how he didn't go public with his Alzheimer's diagnosis, not because of vanity, but because he couldn't bear the idea of all the joy he brought to the world, and children in particular, being marred by talk of the disease.
Mr. Wilder's family stated, "We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented, we have been among the lucky ones—this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that."
We know all too well that many families have to endure the pain of their loved one not recognizing them, or witness a complete and shocking personality change. Others have to worry about wandering, not eating, or any combination of so many concerning behaviors. But there is one universal truth that Mr. Wilder's family encapsulated so well: regardless of the impact Alzheimer's or dementia has on a person, everyone wants to be remembered for their "before," rather than their "after."
Every family copes with an Alzheimer's diagnosis in their own way and we applaud both the activists, and those who choose to keep their challenges private. We believe that both choices honor the person inside the patient and reflect the dreamer of dreams who never fully disappears.
For more information about supporting people with dementia and their families, please contact us!
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