by Dish Staff
Kent Russell struggles to wrap his head around stories of Alzheimer’s:
The thing about these stories—compelling as they can be—is that they tend to work against themselves. They have a dampening effect. Emerging from one, you feel a little stupefied, and bone-tired, as though you yourself have just swum through six feet of cemetery dirt. The reading or viewing experience is harrowing, grievous— truly scary—but also inconsequential, in a way.
Scary because dementia creates what should not be: mindless persons. Mindless, selfless, unreasonable creatures, somehow still looking like human beings. We see a metaphysical incompatibility in them, and it is deeply unsettling. They might as well be headless bodies, up and shambling around.
Inconsequential because, for all their pathos, each dementia story comes across as an individual tragedy. You read it or watch it or hear about it, and you might fear something similar happening to you, but you can’t really imagine such a thing ever happening to you. Literally—dementia is unimaginable. We can’t put ourselves in the place of the demented; we can’t wrap our minds around what it must be like to lose your mind. Instead, you and me, storytelling animals that we are—we invent confident memories of our future.
And then, of course, it happens to us.
(Photo: A scan of the brain of a patient affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)