old dogs and elder gentlemen

One of my dearest friends and mentors is not himself these days. I mean to say, that the keen mind and sharp wit of the man I knew has largely ebbed away due to Alzheimer’s disease. As the patriarch of a large family spanning now four generations, he has made an impact on many people not just blood relations. Those of us who have been molded in large part by the man of God I have known nearly a quarter-century, take opportunities to spend time with him. A few times, after church, we have invited J_ to join me, my wife, and other friends to lunch. We do this to help his octogenarian spouse get a little time to rest or recharge at their home alone, as his debilitated state is taxing for her. It’s the constant concern of having family and others in their home for his daily care. When we spend some time at my home afterward, he notices a portrait of my much-younger self in Navy Service Dress Whites. Though we first shared sea-stories two decades ago about time in the Navy, his memories of his time are growing more spotty. At first, he tries to place who I am. He does seem to enjoy himself but old friends are increasingly unfamiliar.

But there may be some hope of treatment for people suffering the earliest stages of the disease. In the U.S., in 2021, a drug, Aducanumab, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in some cases of Alzheimer’s disease. To the extent that it can treat issues in the brain and whom it might help, are still being studied. Though I was an earlier fan of natural or herbal ingredients to treat some conditions, and not necessarily a proponent of pharmaceuticals, each have their benefits. However, there are a number of homeopathic therapies that study has not determined to be helpful to dementia sufferers. In this same article on the Mayo Clinic website, it provides more information on diagnosis, treatment, and how caregivers can take steps to help those affected to remain safe.

I have not heard of canines declining in such manner. Dogs do foreshadow how our senior years might be, in a much shorter span of dog-years. I have raised four generations of dogs from puppy to seniority and like people, dogs do often suffer bone degenerative diseases and lose sight or hearing, While my memories may become impaired in old age, I hope my dogs will always welcome me in theirs. I hope Dexter and Comet, like the fabled Argos in Homer’s Odyssey, might still know me.

Oddly, at age eleven, Dexter shows little sign of advanced years. He is always eager to go for walks, to greet neighbors, to growl at our kitty, and drinks water like a camel. Not an inch of fat on his thick, pittie-mix body either. Comet, on the other hand, enjoys a more leisurely – and shorter – walk around the block. And he relishes returning to the air conditioning. I am hopeful my genetics will allow me to remain like my aunt, a nonagenarian with remarkably good health. Yet in the end, I can only benefit so much from exercise and healthy eating. However, as a disciple of Jesus, my faith assures me I will someday trade perishable flesh for imperishable spirit. I need that. The names, faces and stories I struggle now to remember, after that Day, will once again be crystal clear.

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