Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding New Hope in Alzheimers Battle

This colum originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on March 5, 2012.

It is pretty much impossible to speak with local resident and successful author Brad Pitman without fully engaging your thought process (meager as my own may be). He’s a man who makes you think.
These days the life-long Attleboro resident is widely known as the author of “Ma Is Back! Memoir of an Alzheimer’s Discovery Restoring My Mother’s Memory”, self published through ICAN Ltd of Attleboro. The book is the story of Pitman’s time caring for his elderly mother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and his tireless efforts and intelligent approach which ultimately led to her transformation from being helplessly trapped by dementia to once again functioning as the mother he knew and loved.
But it is not Pitman’s story-telling skills that have earned my admiration and respect over the years. Rather it is his simple approach to life, his ability to utilize common sense where the rest of us seem determined to insert complicated processes. Brad sees things many overlook, a skill widely lacking today.
Of course, he is a bit of a throwback. If you look up the term “Yankee” in the dictionary (not the baseball Yankee, but the original usage of the term) you most likely will find Pitman’s picture next to it. A born and bred New Englander, he brings a certain style and simple elegance to anything in which he becomes involved, along with a burning intensity and a focused vision, something he has utilized successfully throughout his life and beyond his precious time with his mother.
As remarkable as the story of his mother is, what struck me was the approach her son took in determining her care. While making sure she had topnotch medical care, he refused to simply rely on what doctors and others constantly reminded him they did not know. He was already painfully aware of what he and they did not know. So he made a conscious decision that worrying about this lack of knowledge would not help the situation.
Instead Pitman did something so stunningly simple that it confused many and caused them to dismiss his efforts. He concentrated on what he did know, and what he saw. He refused to be bound and restricted by conventional wisdom, choosing to rely instead on first-hand experience and give it equal weight in his long-term consideration and planning. He didn’t think out-of-the-box, as the popular phrase goes. He simply refused to disregard the significance of anything he found inside the box.
When his mother would seem just a tad more responsive and be having a “good day”, he didn’t only believe it a blessing and merely be grateful for it. He considered the possibility it may have been caused by something she did or was exposed to, in the same way he knew some of her “bad days” were caused by certain other things. If she seemed better after eating tomato sauce or corn, he wondered why. He did not dismiss the positive changes he himself observed. He quite logically figured if it worked in one direction, it could also work in the other.
So many today are conditioned to simply accept certain unpleasant realities in life. We tend to focus entirely too much on the complex things we don’t know, and ignore the more mundane but sometimes equally or more important things we do know. We look for fast and simple cures to our problems. We want a pill, a website, a certain behavior that will cure what ails us physically or otherwise.
Yet often our problems require that we analyze our situations and study our own behavior. We can’t always “cure” whatever our target is, be it disease or something else that stands in our way. But if we concentrate on the facts and information we do have, instead of bemoaning all that we do not know, we greatly increase our odds of success.
Brad Pitman’s book stands on its own, and each reader can judge its worth. But the general philosophy behind it is one we would all do well to more often work into our daily approach to life. Even if I am fortunate enough to never have to deal with Alzheimer’s Disease in my family, I have learned that important lesson from both Brad and his mother.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be reached at

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