Some of you might remember that my brother Ned is 40 years old and has Downs Syndrome. He still lives with my 80 year old mother, who suffers from an "Alzheimer's type" dementia. We have an angel of a housekeeper who attends to their every need.
In my opinion, Ned hasn't had the chance to find his full potential. Mother has dedicated her life to keeping him close and protecting him fiercely. I'm not faulting her...I'm just saying that given the opportunity, he could have gotten a job and probably flourished in the right group home situation. We've tried for 20 years to make some changes for him, but she will not hear of it. We could force the issue but there's no doubt in my mind that without him by her side, she would lose ground quickly and be overtaken by the memory loss. He is her reason for holding it all together. As it is, he just stays home with her and goes where she wants to go (which is all in a five mile radius) and doesn't often get to make any kind of decision at all other than what he might like to eat or watch on TV.
People who don't know Ned might think that he isn't always aware of what's happening, but he's fooling them, let me tell you. He is Mr. Personality and has never met a stranger. He can tell you who sings what country song on the radio and knows all the words to most of the songs. He can tell you all SORTS of things and has become mother's "memory." It drives me nuts sometimes when she asks me the same question five times in as many minutes and, bless Ned's heart, he never gets a break from it. Hank asked him one time, "Ned...How do you think your mother is doing?" Ned replied, "Well Hank, I try to help her out but sometimes she doesn't remember things and gets aggravated with me." Yep...he knows what's going on...
One afternoon, Hank was over at their house and decided that he was going to bring Ned to our house to spend the night. They'd go over to the farm and ride around in the truck and on the four wheeler. It took some convincing but Mother finally gave in. Since it was about supper time, they went to the Burger King drive-thru. Listen...Ned is NOT going to eat a bite EVER unless he says a blessing over it...not even a snack... so sitting there in the car, they bowed their heads and Ned said, "Thank you Lord for this food. Please bless Mama and our family and Thank You Lord for GETTING ME OUT OF THAT HOUSE! AMEN"
Hank and I have talked about it a lot lately....we don't quite know how we're going to do it, but there's no question that we've got to do whatever it takes to get the poor fellow out of the house more often.