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If you're new to this blog and want some context for it, read this post from the day I announced my Alzheimer's disease and this post about the day I announced I had lost it. For more info, visit my website with my autobiography and all blog entries in chronological order for easier reading to catch up. There's also a sermon on the spiritual lessons I've learned through this journey through my damaged mind.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Denial and Such

Washington DC
This is a guest post from my wife Marja Hilfiker.

Most of the time, I have been in denial of some sort or another.

True, David lost his belt pack twice on the same trip to see the grandchildren.  The first time it was returned by strangers, minus the cash. The second time it just seemed to evaporate.  A few months later, while we were on a backpacking trip, I salvaged his new belt pack from an outhouse, which I just happened to visit before we continued our hike.  When I first told our daughter Karin about David's cognitive impairment, she said, “Yeah, Dad seems a little weaker every time I see him.” Last fall, David suddenly had a rash of missed appointments and meetings, but some extra precautions brought those problems generally under control.

Otherwise, many of the symptoms David complains about seem all too familiar.  Can’t remember names.  Same here.  Can’t find words.  Me too.  Typing has gotten terrible.  So what else is new?  Aren’t we just getting older in tandem?  We are senior citizens after all.  We should be grateful we are still ambulatory. Unless, of course, I have Alzheimer’s as well.  In one test of cognitive functioning, we both got a perfect score, so who is going first?

I didn’t go to David’s appointment with his neurologist, but our recollections of what David had reported from that appointment have varied enough for us to argue about them.  I clearly recall that the doctor had said, “I have a hunch that you may be moving toward dementia.” That seemed drastic enough to me, but now David insists that he never used the word “hunch” but diagnosed progressive cognitive impairment that was likely to be Alzheimer’s disease.  However, it was later verified that the medical record did not include the word Alzheimer’s.

The denial definitely cushions the blow.  I have never felt shocked or terrified or overcome by grief. We always thought that this would be the worst possible way to go, but the reality is sinking in very gently. Or is it reality?  After David made what I thought was a premature announcement of his condition, he got so much loving attention from the community, including The Washington Post, that I started worrying that he does not have Alzheimer’s. 

The good part of it is that whatever it is, we’re in it together. Out of the ruts of our parallel lives, we reach toward each other more in affectionate gestures or offers to spend time together. Since last fall we have enjoyed some remarkable free concerts, and I even made an effort to find David a birthday present.  All that in addition to our evening walks, hand in hand, down Columbia Road seems to have taken on a sense of urgency.


  1. A lovely post, thank you. Life does not end when you get a diagnosis of dementia, and, as I describe in my book about my experiences with my mother, you will find many opportunities to give and share love and enjoy each other. I wish you all the best and will follow this blog.
    --Martha Stettinius, author, "Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter's Memoir"

    1. Martha:
      Thanks for your comment. There have been several people who have described to me similar experiences of loving and enjoying one another more intensely even as this disease progresses. It's already been true for Marja and me, and for that I am very grateful.
      I look forward to reading your blog.


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