Don’t Forget to Dance Alzheimer’s Journey

Marc Alderdice Feature

Marc Alderdice Book CoverMarc Alderdice , Maryland, USA

My memoir is about my wife Mary’s and my trek through the various stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Initially I did not intend to write a book. It started with me putting my thoughts together to process what was happening and assess how to better take care of Mary. I needed some way to help me know what to do and how to respond on a consistent basis, not just reacting to my own thoughts, feelings or frustrations at any given moment. My notes were also to help her doctors understand her condition better so she could receive the best treatment, and so I could better provide what she needed to make her feel secure, relevant, loved and as happy as possible. I wanted to share what I learned, and the best way to do this was through telling our story. I also wanted to share experiences and challenges from a husband’s perspective since most Alzheimer’s memoirs are written by women.

Don’t Forget to Dance shows how we approached and overcame both known and unforeseen complications and made it through bizarre times in innovative ways. A few aspects of our story stand out as truly unique for an Alzheimer’s patient, and these added to my wanting to let others know what might be expected. Through experience, my advice is to know everything you can about what to expect…and then expect the unexpected.

One of the most important features I wanted readers to know is how Mary prepared herself to get Alzheimer’s. Some of her relatives developed Alzheimer’s, and Mary felt that whatever was deep in someone’s heart is what would surface if they ever lost mental control due to such a dreaded disease. Realizing her chances were greater, she prepared her heart, mind and spirit for over eight years before showing any symptoms. Not only did this preparation help get her through the initial stages, but it brought her an inner peace in later stages that has no other explanation.

While the diagnosis was distressing, Mary had a live-life-to-the-fullest approach, striving to ensure ongoing happiness—even taking lessons in new activities such as horseback riding—which allowed us to make the best of living with Alzheimer’s. She was also excited to participate in a clinical drug trial to test a potential Alzheimer’s treatment.

A couple of years after diagnosis, Mary had a strange illness displaying many fears, delusions, and hallucinations that often accompany Alzheimer’s, but she also exhibited multiple distinct identities, one of whom was a sweet little girl about five years old. Presenting such anomalies and showing potential solutions for what to do when strange and unexpected things happen (which they will!) helps others think through possibilities.

Ultimately accepting that she needed to move into assisted living, Mary’s preparations paid off and we had a renewed love affair that will inspire readers on any life journey, showing how a supportive and even happy relationship can be fostered through such dire circumstances. Mary lost speech abilities early on, and so a lot is focused on communication in different and even better ways, talking with our interactions and emotions instead of cumbersome words. While Alzheimer’s is devastating, I believe the book is encouraging, showing how a supportive and even happy relationship can be fostered during such dire circumstances. It demonstrates we can be as happy as possible if we don’t forget to dance and are willing to learn new ways to “dance.”

About the Author

Marc AlderdiceMarc Alderdice received a PhD in Pharmacology and, after completing a post-doctoral fellowship, was on the faculty at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. He then started working with various pharmaceutical companies, having even managed clinical trials for potential treatments of Alzheimer’s disease. Marc has also had to deal with the disease on a personal level when his wife, Mary, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He learned the hard way that living with Alzheimer’s personally is much different and more difficult than studying it objectively. He takes us on Mary’s and his emotional journey and shows us how we can “dance” more and be happier no matter what life throws our way.

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One Response

  1. Hi, Marc!

    Thank you for sharing your story on Alzheimer’s with us and being willing to let others know to expect the unexpected. I hope your book helps families who are battling this disease and that they remember to learn new ways to dance with life.

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