Feb 12, 2010

Everything Costs One Dollar

Bob DeMarco’s story about the Grand Slam Breakfast reminded me of our weekly trips to the Ice Cream Stand with Great Grams.

By Max Wallack

Everything Costs One Dollar
Max Wallack
About 20 miles north of where I live, there’s a picturesque Ice Cream Stand. It has cows in the back, as well as various other animals for young kids to see. It even has a beautiful miniature golf course. We used to go there about once a week.

Great Grams loved ice cream, especially strawberry ice cream. Of course, her first question was always, “How much does it cost”? She would usually have a few $20 bills in her pocketbook, but she would never buy anything that cost more than $1. We learned to tell her that ice cream costs $1. Then, she would be very happy that her huge strawberry ice cream costs only $1.

We would have been perfectly happy just to pay for her ice cream, but she always insisted that she pay for herself. However, she was perfectly content to look in her purse, every time, and seeing that she only had $20 bills, she would say she would “pay us back” later.

Now, I remember this as a pleasant memory that makes me smile. However, as a young child, when this behavior first began, it was troubling to me. I had been brought up to tell the truth.

Even adults have problems “lying” to people they care about. How do you explain to a 6 or 7 year-old that you need to lie to Great Grams or she won’t enjoy her ice cream?

I think this is one of the hardest aspects of Alzheimer’s for a child to deal with. Can you expect a young child to understand when he/she needs to lie to help someone? What message does this send to the child?

Should the child decide on his/her own when to lie? What if the Alzheimer’s patient asks the child directly how much something costs?

In my case, this even extended to items that Great Grams didn’t pay for. We all needed to lie about how much everything costs. Great Grams often became fearful that everyone else was spending HER money.

I have seen Alzheimer’patients comment here about how they want to know the truth about things, including their diagnosis. I wonder what they would say about wanting to know the truth, later in their illness, if the truth brought them agitation.

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude Finkelstein, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER , a 501(c.)3 charitable organization. PUZZLES TO REMEMBER is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and other institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room