Writing a character with Alzheimer’s Disease
In my quest for inclusivity in my writing, I’m creating a character for my next novel who has early Alzheimer’s Disease. She’s the grandmother of the main character – a woman in her eighties who may not realize yet she’s headed down the Alzheimer’s path.
I have first-person experience. My own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease about fifteen years ago. In the early phases, the disease doesn’t trigger huge changes. There’s some forgetfulness and occasional confusion, but the personality remains intact. They can still carry on with their lives. They can drive, go shopping, have family and friends over. They can go on a trip to Ireland with their daughter.
But with the passage of time, the transformation is enormous. Early on, they lose recent memories but still maintain memories from childhood or their young adult years. Eventually, they lose those memories as well, even forgetting family members. With time, they often lose the ability to speak coherently or understand what’s being said to them. Eventually, they often lose the ability to walk.
That’s where my mother is now - in the unpleasant twilight zone of advanced Alzheimer’s. She became so unsteady recently that she fell and broke her hip. She’s in an excellent nursing home on hospice care. We are now at the stage of providing love and comfort.
So the character I’m writing is loosely based on my mom, and a tribute to her caring spirit, her loving heart and her lively mind. My fictional character is where my mother was when Alzheimer’s symptoms were so mild, she actually found humor in them. Those days are long gone at this point on the Alzheimer’s path.
The picture above is of my mother and my youngest son, taken six years ago when she still looked like her lovely self.