Dr. David Hilfiker says he is writing his blog to “dispel some of the fear and embarrassment that surrounds Alzheimer’s.”
David Hilfiker, a 68-year-old retired physician and author, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in September 2012, and has been writing about his experiences on his blog, “Watching the Lights Go Out.” According to the Daily Mail, Hilfiker says the past months have been “one of the happiest periods in [his] life.” While that perspective may be hard to comprehend, especially for anyone who has watched a loved one gradually lose their mental and physical capabilities, but Hilfiker writes,
We tend to be scared of Alzheimer’s or embarrassed by it. We see it as the end of life rather than a phase of life with all its attendant opportunities for growth, learning, and relationships.
We see only the suffering and miss the joy. We experience only the disappearing cognitive abilities and ignore the beautiful things that can appear.
Hilfiker has accepted his disease, and views it as an opportunity to truly learn how to “let go,” which he was never able to do before. Because of what he is discovering now he says he is “experiencing a new sense of inner peace and a renewed love for [my] wife.” Hilfiker is also finally able to accept his mistakes and “forgive his own shortcomings,” whereas before the onset of Alzheimer’s his own mistakes would often devastate him emotionally. He writes,
My helplessness is unavoidable. I am not going to get better no matter what I do; my capacities will decline further. This is not my fault.
Especially in our country, it seems to me, feeling helpless is not culturally acceptable and frequently occasions shame. We disparage the “learned helplessness” of the poor, for instance, as almost the worst of all sins and blame for their own poverty. Our native optimism convinces us that people aren’t really helpless: There’s always some way out, and it’s their job to figure it out.
None of us is independent; all of us have deep needs that can only be met by other people.
Hilfiker hopes that by chronicling his personal experiences daily, he will help people not only to understand Alzheimer’s better, but to help dispel so many of the stigmas that society has surrounding not only the disease itself but the simple and unavoidable reality of aging.