Still Alice and Alzheimer’s Disease
Still Alice, October 15,2012, #14159336 Life is a precious gift. It is not about the gifts we are given in our lives, but how we use those gifts. Do we take for granted our lives and just how precious they are or does it take a tragedy to really find out? Still Alice is a moving novel describing the inevitable downward spiral Alzheimer’s disease causes and how we must appreciate all we have because at any age, our lives could change drastically.
It is unimaginable how Alzheimer’s disease changes a person’s entire life, but with the support of family, friends, and colleagues, it is possible for Alice to stay true to herself, live with the disease, and remember she is not the disease, but rather still Alice (Genova). Dr. Alice Howland, a fifty-one year old woman, is a fantastic mother, wife, and professor at Harvard University. After struggling with simple everyday tasks involving her memory, Alice decided to see a doctor to get evaluated to see if there was anything to be concerned about.
Ruling out it was not menopausal symptoms or the stress of everyday life, she was sent home and told to continue to evaluate herself at home. About a month later, she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease (Genova). This diagnosis changed her life forever. John, Alice’s husband, was closest to her and they had an incredible relationship and marriage. Unfortunately for Alice, John never fully understood what she was going through. When Alice first breaks the news to him, he went into immediate denial. He took her to another doctor and had more tests run.
It was somehow impossible to believe the love of his life, the perfect, intelligent woman he married would have to struggle and lose herself for the rest of their lives. After awhile of denial, he became aware of how much she really needed him to be there for her. He set aside his true feelings and began doing more things to help her feel happy and not trudge on through life. The best thing he did for her was go running every single night with her. Not only was it great alone time for them, but he Still Alice, October 15,2012, #14159336 as helping her feel youthful and like herself again each time they took a jog. Sometimes his undying love for his wife would take over and he would be there for her, especially the night she got lost in their own home and she broke down. He held her while she sobbed (Genova 150). Overtime it was if the disease became too hard for John to handle and he missed who is wife used to be rather than loving her unconditionally. He lost his patience quickly which showed one night when Alice went to change, but could not figure out how to get her bra on, but she did not realize she was holding underwear instead.
She quickly laughed it off while John yelled at her telling her how it was not funny she was losing her mind (Genova 199). In the end, Alzheimer’s was overtaking John’s life and rather than living with it, he pretended as if Alice would just tag along with him to a new job promotion in New York. Alice and her children knew this would make her memory and mindset go downhill quickly, but John did not seem to care. Leaving her behind with a caretaker and their children in Cambridge, John went on to New York (Genova). Alice’s colleagues were a different story.
Alice finished the semester and was hoping to teach another year at Harvard, but her student evaluations made her decision for her. It was evident she was not the same great professor she used to be and her ability to conduct class was declining fast to the point where she would repeat the same lecture or show up on some days for a few minutes then just leave (Genova 180). She told her boss about her disease and together they decided it would be best for her to take the year off and then take a sabbatical. Her boss felt horrible, but Alice knew it was best and she never wanted to be known has a bad professor so this was best.
Besides having to end her professional career, Alice’s role as a mother and wife were deeply impacted. At times she would not know who her children were, especially Lydia, “the actress”. She tried her best to be loving and caring for all three of her children and her husband, Still Alice, October 15,2012, #14159336 but sometimes it became overwhelming and she just needed alone time. One night Lydia, her daughter, was there to stay the night while John was out of town and Alice did her best to force her out and claim she didn’t need her help. Lydia knew better and out of the love for her mother, she stayed with her all night.
Alice continued loving John unconditionally even when it was hard and she felt a little depressed. With all of her heart, she never wanted to let her husband go. She constantly reminded her family she loved them even when eventually she wouldn’t remember them (Genova). Alzheimer’s is never good, but it can give secret blessing. The biggest blessing she received as a result of her disease was the relationship with her daughter Lydia. All along Alice had a hard time supporting Lydia because she wanted her to go to college instead of aspiring to be an actress.
Realizing it is more important to be a supportive mother, Alice went to Lydia’s performances and discussed acting with her daughter. They became closer than they ever and Alice was so proud at the end of the book hen Lydia was accepted and planned to attended Brandeis University in their hometown (Genova 258). After reading this novel, I thought very carefully on whether or not I would want to know if I will have Alzheimer’s or not like Alice’s children found out in the novel. I came to the conclusion; I would not want to know. Living life to its absolute fullest is what I am all about.
Knowing down the road in my later life I will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s would scare me. I think I would stray away from the carefree, fun-loving person I am and just become stressed for my own future and what was to come. I love living in the moment, and if the moment arrives where I am diagnosed with this disease, I will face the challenge, but until then, I am going to enjoy every minute of my life. Still Alice, October 15,2012, #14159336 I admire Alice for the person she was throughout the entire book and her daughter Lydia’s attitude.
There is little time for being sad right when someone is diagnosed, but after that you have to be supportive and caring. It’s not the disease caretakers live with, but the person and I feel that is very crucial to remember. As the presenter said in class, “There are rules of engagement we must recognize. They live in their own reality, have their own logic, and cannot reason, therefore we need to enter their reality” (Ms. Byergo). Accepting them for who they are and who they will become with the disease is the best thing I can think I would do.
It would be an honor to work with elderly and individuals with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia. With the typical person being older than I am now, they would have so much wisdom and things to teach me. I think telling stories and sharing memories is a great way to relive the great days before the disease really takes over. I am a great listener and love hearing stories from older, wiser people because they have more fully experienced life and shared in the beauty of it. They can relive their youth through me and I could learn how to become a fantastic adult through them.
It would be a great experience. Still Alice surprised me by how well written and real life it was. I felt like I was part of the Howland family and as if I was going through everything with them. It captured my attention and stole my heart. I can’t imagine going through such an experience, but if I ever do, I will be glad I read this novel. Still Alice, October 15,2012, #14159336 Works Cited Byergo, Ms. “Aging and Alzheimer’s. ” University of Missouri. Arts & Science Building, Columbia, MO. 9 October 2012. Lecture. Genova, Lisa. Still Alice: A Novel. New York: Gallery, 2009. Print.