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My Psychiatrist Has Alzheimer’s

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been treated by one psychiatrist for major depressive disorder since 1981. He is the finest person I’ve ever known, the kindest and most caring. To say he has saved my life is an understatement. I don’t see him every week (the first ten years I did) but mainly check in because of the meds I’m taking (Wellbutrin, Effexor, Trazadone).

Six weeks ago he told me he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We cried together that day and I’m still devastated. Two neurologists advised him to stop prescribing medication and I have to find a new shrink. He hopes to keep his practice going until the spring.

He’s the kind of person who calls to see how I am when I’m going through a tough period. He genuinely cares about me. The loss of this person in my life deeply affects my sense of security, although I have close friends and the fellowship of AA (22 years!) as support. I live in dread. I keep putting off finding another shrink to prescribe meds, I don’t want to talk to someone else.

This feels like a loss I can’t handle and I’m terrified. I don’t feel abandoned, I know it’s a disease. But I’m terrified still. My God this is one person who knows my life and won’t even remember me soon. How can I cope?

This is a difficult situation. There will be no easy way to face the impending loss. Loss is an unfortunate part of life.

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve. Your inclination is to avoid facing the problem. That reaction is understandable and common but it has the potential to be detrimental to your psychological health. It is important for you develop the appropriate support system that can help you heal and grieve. Utilize the support of your close friends in AA. Ask for their assistance while you transition to a new therapist.

You might want to consider attending an Alzheimer’s grief support group. It might help to be in the presence of others who are facing a similar situation. You may want to consider these resources to learn more about Alzheimer’s.

You’re fortunate to have met a mental health professional who has helped you. Try to treasure the time you have left with him. Also remember that nothing and no one can take away the relationship that you have. Death is a separation from the one you love, not an end or erasure of your relationship. All that he has taught you will live on with you.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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