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First Person: Leon Rosenberg, 81, on the Risk of Dementia (Video Interview)

Individuals and families face very different burdens at the end of life if the mind and body don't give out in harmony.

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Leon Rosenberg is 81 years old. He is a retired child psychologist living in a graduated assisted living community (and, full disclosure, he happens to be my father). He's a smart, well-educated man who led a long, successful career. Leon surprised me when he told me his fear about approaching the end of life is not dementia -- it's losing the use of his body before his mind. He explained that when your body gives out, you live in that suffering. When your mind gives out, you aren't there to be concerned about it anymore. The burden moves to your family, and that is a burden that one can arrange to minimize in advance, through financial planning (or Medicare support) and open conversations.

My father completely surprised me with his views (a bit more full disclosure). I would have sworn dementia would be his greater fear. And I'm not sure he's right that my brothers and I would rationally be able to disassociate the man we love from the body that goes on without him. I very much hope we'll never find out.

"First Person" is an experiment we are trying during this challenge to see how we might use video interviews to add inspiration and spark conversation. Let us know what you think!

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Degenerative diseases, of the mind or the body, create complex problems for the end of life experience. How do we create end of life experiences that work for people with degenerative physical diseases? For people with dementia?


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Photo of Sherri McElroy

Jim...I've looked for the post you referenced. If you find it, could you send me a link? Is the TED talk this one?
Your Father reminds me of my own—logical, matter of fact and practical. On the other hand my mother, like yours, will not talk about end-of-life. 

Photo of Jim Rosenberg

I found it! Prepare for a good end of life   

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