Thursday, October 09, 2008

Portland Memory Garden

View Larger Map

As you may have noticed, this is generally not the most personal of personal blogs. It's usually city park, waterfall, city park, bridge, bridge, blah, blah, occasionally with a cheesy monster movie or a brewpub thrown in to liven things up. And in a way, this post is yet another "city park" post, although with a bit more personal significance than usual.

leaf, portland memory garden

These photos are from the Portland Memory Garden, located in Ed Benedict Park in outer SE Portland, just south of Kelly Butte. The garden was designed as a safe, quiet, peaceful place to take people with Alzheimer's: Circular paths so they won't get lost; high walls and a gate to keep them from wandering off. They've even made sure to plant only nontoxic, edible plants, apparently.

bee, portland memory garden

I've mentioned before, in passing, that I have a family member with Alzheimer's, now in the later stages of the disease. It's difficult to talk about, and impossible not to talk about. When he took a major turn for the worse a few weeks ago, I started writing a post about the situation but couldn't finish the thing. (What's more, the initial bit I'd written wasn't really the tone I was aiming for -- I'm kind of a perfectionist about these things, although I'm not certain this is always obvious in the finished product.)

rose, portland memory garden

So a bit later, I remembered reading about this Memory Garden thing, and it occurred to me that I might want to go check it out. Not for his sake, really; he's a couple of hours away, and anymore he's a bit too far along to really appreciate the place. No, it's more that I thought, hey, here's a place I can go and take a few photos of, and post some strictly factual links about, and maybe also include some informational links about the disease itself. That way I can feel as though I've said or done something semi-constructive about (or at least in relation to) the situation. Which is preferable, I think, to simply wringing my hands and wallowing in pathos.

flowers, portland memory garden

So here are those strictly factual links I mentioned:
berries, portland memory garden While I'm at it, here's the original text of that post I couldn't quite put together. ..
A while back I asserted that Alzheimer's was officially the worst medical condition in the world. As it turns out, I was slightly premature about that. Alzheimer's plus broken hip is even worse. Way worser than worst. Not so many years ago, there were no good options for dealing with a broken hip. If you got one, you were screwed, basically. You tended not to live much longer after that, whether due to the injury or subsequent complications. Now there are a number of surgical options, including partial hip replacement, which is the option we settled on. Hip replacement is a marvelous thing in most cases: People who'd otherwise be dead or debilitated can be back on their feet, doing the whole "active senior" thing for years to come. But in our case it means another six months, or a year, or maybe two, of progressive dementia. At best, he'll just regain the ability to try to wander off to Chicago again. So no big increase in quality of life here. And did I mention that partial hip replacements aren't cheap? Still, doing nothing wasn't an option. That would be inhumane. Even idly thinking about cost/benefit equations verges on inhumane. But if you've ever been curious why health care is so expensive in this country, well, I've got a data point for you right here.
flowers, portland memory garden flowers, portland memory garden spider, portland memory garden

1 comment :

We Are Dave said...

Brave of you to share this; there are enormous stresses on those around dementia patients but very few outlets for that stress. It's hard to discuss, partly because we all have a secret fear of falling victim to it ourselves. Some research does seem finally to be getting under way, but currently the only way of alleviating our fears is to realise that the people around us *will* treat us humanely if we need help. And that's what you've contributed with this post - by drawing attention to the Memory Garden, and also by being open about your own role. So, thank you.