Monday, March 19, 2007

Primo Levi

I'm still reading Primo Levi. This time The Drowned and the Saved. I realize that comparing illness to the concentration experience is invalid, perhaps even unjust; but Concentration Camp literature is helping me conceptualize Alzheimer's more than anything I've read on Alzheimer's. For instance, "... our ability to decide had been amputated. Therefore we are not responsible and cannot be punished." (p.29)

I think of how often Alzheimer patients are punished for "bad behavior," eg. I don't want to take a shower. Leave me alone, and given drugs to modify that behavior so personnel can get their work done. On the one hand, understandable; on the other, a ratio of 1 care worker to fifteen patients is untenable.

One day Abe raised his cane at a resident who was bothering him and right away the head nurse wanted to put him on drugs. "Except for Abe, they're almost all on depacote," another nurse said. I spoke to the doctor and a resident's daughter and that's not at all true. Meanwhile, the cane raising hasn't happened again and he didn't have to go on drugs. Plus, that person has let him alone.

Levi is hopeful, as well as helpful to me:

Why does one write?

Because one feels the drive and the need to do so.
To entertain oneself and others.
To teach something to someone.
To improve the world.
To make one's ideas known.
To free oneself from anguish.
To become famous.
To become rich.
Out of habit.

-Primo Levi

from his essay Other People's Trades

Lines 1 and 6 apply to me more than the others...

1 comment:

Esther Altshul Helfgott said...

I forgot I wrote this; more important, I forgot how helpful Levi's work was in teaching me to understand Alzheimer's