June 22, 2009

Student's Thoughts on "Living With Herbie"

Here is another touching essay on "Living with Herbie," written by a student at Strayer University. Thank you to Prof. Abramson and her student for sharing this with us.

Sadness. How could anyone be anything but sad after watching this video? I noticed tears coming to my eyes almost immediately. I stopped and thought, wait, I am a man…I am not supposed to be crying! But, how could I help myself from tearing up? Studying a disease like dementia means nothing until you put a sweet old man’s face to the condition and what it is doing to his family. I have studied dementia before and its effects, but that twelve minute video did more for me than an entire unit in class. The effects that the disease has had on Herbie’s daughter, Julie, on her family, and on Herbie, himself, were the most impactful parts of the video.

In the video, Julie said, “You have to look at care giving as a marathon, not a sprint.” The sacrifice that she is making for her father is remarkable. She recognizes that she will not stop at anything to provide the care that he needs for a better quality of life. She sacrifices time spent with her children, her husband, her friends, and time spent on herself in order to take care of him. I think that the fact that she does not hesitate to do so, and the fact that she is so committed to dedicating herself to whatever time he has left is admirable.
The commitment that Herbie’s son-in-law is making to his wife and to Herbie is also commendable. I was grateful to see that he was honest in the video. It must be so frustrating at times and anyone can see that he is nervous that life might turn out a certain way that he cannot help but become agitated. I am sure that some of his anger stems from that apprehension of growing old and from knowing who Herbie was before the onset of dementia. The honesty that he displays in the video had a huge impact on me, especially when he said, “What will happen when I can’t do twenty push-ups anymore?” I think it is a real fear that people face when they age. However, he stays committed to allowing Herbie a warm home and a beautiful family with whom he can spend his remaining days.

Finally, the impact that has had the most lasting effect on me was how much this must affect Herbie. In his moments of clarity, I wonder what he thinks about his situation. I wonder if he is looking down from the afterlife and feels appreciative or if he feels guilty? It must be such a struggle for someone who, as his girlfriend Ruth said, was as at one time “very, very savvy, and sophisticated,” to realize that he no longer is. It was easy to watch Herbie in the video because is a nice looking man who seems so sweet and sincere, but it was very hard to watch what this man had obviously become.

The effects that this debilitating disease has had on one family made me stop and think. The video gave me a ton of questions that I want answered. It made me wonder how many people would do for their loved ones what this family has done for Herbie.