Geri Taylor: The Wherewithal to Face Alzheimer’s With Dignity

If you haven't read N.R. Kleinfeld's article tracking Geri Taylor's five years or so with an Alzheimer's diagnosis, you should. Interestingly, the lengthy article is a separate section unto itself in my print version of the Sunday New York Times today. Why is that? Strong stuff ahead, wouldn't want anyone to stumble on it? Can this be it — in a newspaper that does not hesitate to put a photograph of a dead person in its pages?  Whatever it means, I find it quite telling that the online version of the article tells you that an automatic book marker has been set, so that you may leave the article and resume where you left off. Perhaps this is common, perhaps I've never seen this before, perhaps this is a particularly useful feature for readers with cognitive impairments, or perhaps we all know that 10,000 or so words on a slow disturbing cognitive decline may require a few breaks for breathing room, nay gasping room.

The part of the article that struck me the hardest was how little was said about the astonishing financial cost of aging in place with Alzheimer's (to self, to mate, to caregivers). The Taylors have resources, both in terms of  financial capital ("In time, they would revise their wills, shielding some assets for their children") and social capital (children and step-children abound). Many Americans do not. And though Jim Taylor seems to be as honest and kind a companion in this twist of fate that might reasonably be asked for, there is no guarantee he will not age into the cognitively impaired club himself.  

Geri Taylor decided, to her great credit, to out herself after her Alzheimer's diagnosis, despite professional advice that she not stigmatize herself in that way — even to friends.  As she made her careful, thoughtful, deliberate rounds of self-disclosure, her shock at discovering some of her friends were on the same path as well merits a pause.  

 

 

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