Beginning at the End:
Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace

© 2019 Joe Wallace

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Zhifen Wu

Zhifen Wu was born in 1937 in Beijing, China. She grew up in a large family that valued education and integrity. She was a college professor for many years in Xi’an. After retiring she and her husband immigrated to the United States to be closer to their children.

 

Her daughter Yuan and I talked at length about the emotional hardship of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s and the struggle to find new ways to love and connect.  The profound sense of loss and the inability to bond through shared memories. 

“When you have Alzheimer’s you become  a different person. When my father passed away I could remember what he was like up until the last moment. But with my mother it’s harder because that special mother-daughter relationship is no longer there. I hesitate to talk about these things because when I talk about it, I feel like I have already lost my mom but she’s still right here.

 

I just don’t know how to place my emotion. I’m not scared … I just hesitate. I don’t know how to tell my mom’s friends or my mom’s relatives that she has this disease. I just don’t know how to say this. She had been a very strong and independent person. Right now I just don’t see any of that. 

 

I want people to remember my mom the way she was. Not the way she is now.”