In February this year, DAI hosted a Webinar and Documentary, “Alzheimer’s: A Love Story” by Michael Horvich. You can view his presentation below, read excerpts of his presentation notes, and download the documentary from the links to Amazon and Vimeo at the end of this blog.
The following is an excerpt of his full speech:
“I am pleased to be here with you today and want to thank Kate Swaffer for the idea and DAI for making this gathering possible. Thank you ALL for joining us. I see some faces out there that I recognize and some that are new to me. For those of you calling in, I cannot see your face but I know it’s a friendly one! Some of you have stayed up very late to be with us, some of you have gotten up very early.
And some of you can FORE-TELL THE FUTURE … because it’s already tomorrow where you live … please let me know how today goes.
The story I am about to share with you is very personal one. I’m comfortable with crying in front of you, however it is very difficult to cry … and talk at the same time. So if I do get choked up, I will pause, take a few deep breaths, and be right back. Thank you for your understanding.
Gregory, my husband of over 41 years, who I met in the late 70’s … and lived with in a committed, same sex relationship before it was fashionable to talk about such things publicly … was diagnosed with DEMENTIA, most likely ALZHEIMER’S, in the 29th year of our relationship.
We walked the Dementia/Alzheimer’s path together for 12 YEARS … He was NOT a victim of Alzheimer’s … but rather a HERO.
He lived as well as possible as the disease progressed and I was able to keep him safe and to support him by helping him to be free of worries, responsibilities, and fears.
I was able to help him compensate for his diminishing abilities while always trying to make sure that the respect and communication which defined our relationship never faltered. I made sure that our daily life was full and rich and meaningful. Our life was filled with much laughter as well as many tears, joy as well as sorrow. And above all, it was filled with LOVE.
The times were not easy, but we persevered.
Admittedly, it is easier to talk about our adventure while looking back … when compared to the SOMETIMES HELL it was during the actual experience Dementia/Alzheimer’s path.
Alzheimer’s is not just about failing memory, as some people believe, and as you probably know. It also affects the thinking process, bodily functioning, and day to day activities.
Gregory lived at home in our condo in Evanston, Illinois, in the U.S.A. for 10+ of his years with dementia.
As my friend Kate Swaffer says, “the diagnosis of Dementia/Alzheimer’s does not have to be a DEATH SENTENCE, one can choose to live a full, meaningful life and find ways to deal with its progress.”
I have said that Gregory was not a VICTIM of Alzheimer’s but rather a HERO! Recently, in looking back, I have begun to be been able to say that Gregory … AND I … were not victims of Alzheimer’s … we were BOTH … HEROS!
The documentary, ALZHEIMER’S: A Love Story, which you are about to see, follows Gregory and me for a week towards the end of his life.
The documentary was done in March of 2015 by the son of Gregory’s college roommate and best friend. Gregory passed seven months later. Gabe, the son, created the documentary as part of the requirements for one of his college courses in film making at Chapman University, Dodge School of Media Arts in Orange, California.
The message, which I believe is a beautiful one, takes Gregory and my 41 year love relationship and Gregory’s 12 years living with Alzheimer’s, and distills it into a moving 15 minute documentary.
I think you will agree as you experience the story … that the same sex couple issue … and the Alzheimer’s issue … almost seem to disappear … what emerges is a story of any two people who love each other very much … and what happens to that love when any long term, catastrophic disease strikes…”
Michael Horvich, Copyright 2017