In one of the stories in Gay Dwarves of America, “Thorn-blossoms,” the main character’s mother, a journalist, has Alzheimer’s. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and other relatives have had different kinds of dementia, and I drew on those memories, but I also did a little bit of research on Alzheimer’s. There is a remarkable photo of Auguste D., the patient whose case Alois Alzheimer wrote up (on page 2 of the link below). I found myself haunted by that photo and by her answers to Alzheimer’s questions. There is a great and terrible poetry in them.
Nov 26, 1901
She sits on the bed with a helpless expression. What is your
name? Auguste. Last name? Auguste. What is your husband’s
name? Auguste, I think. Your husband? Ah, my husband. She
looks as if she didn’t understand the question. Are you married?
To Auguste. Mrs D? Yes, yes, Auguste D. How long have you been
here? She seems to be trying to remember. Three weeks. What is
this? I show her a pencil. A pen. A purse and key, diary, cigar are
identified correctly. At lunch she eats cauliflower and pork.
Asked what she is eating she answers spinach.