Monday 5 December 2016

No matter how hard you try, you won't get it right

Alzheimer's is as individual in its manifestations as are the people it afflicts, writes Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Mary Mitchell O’Connor

Published 20/09/2015 | 02:30

Time to care: Mary Mitchell O’Connor wears purple to remind people of Alzheimer’s Awareness Week which starts with World Alzheimer’s Day tomorrow
Time to care: Mary Mitchell O’Connor wears purple to remind people of Alzheimer’s Awareness Week which starts with World Alzheimer’s Day tomorrow

Very few politicians ever go on television to confess failure. But that's what Minister for Finance Michael Noonan did, a few years ago. He wasn't confessing political failure. He was confessing personal failure: the failure to manage what happened to his beloved wife, Flor, when she developed Alzheimer's disease. He didn't get it right, he said. He tried hard, but he missed countless opportunities to get it right.

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In that emotional interview, Michael Noonan personified thousands of people right around this country whose wives, husbands, fathers or mothers have developed this form of dementia. Nobody gets it right. That's the reality of it.

Families experiencing Alzheimer's disease in one of their members do their best, but, like Michael Noonan, find it's never good enough. That's because the disease is as individual in its manifestations as are the people it afflicts, and because what are later recognised as the early signs don't arrive, at the time, with notification attached, so spouses and children of the sufferer go through phases of bafflement and irritation. The phrase "a bit confused," sounds benign and manageable, but the first evidence of that confusion tends to take the form of sporadic missteps that don't clearly add up to a problem, let alone a diagnosis.

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