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March 25, 2012: A Visit with Katie Long

Today I went with Charlene and Hattie Schmidtkunz to see Katie Long. Charlene is Katie’s daughter, and Hattie is her grand-daughter. Katie has Alzheimer’s disease and now lives in an assisted living facility. She’s in her late 70s.

I met Katie in 2002 when I took her horsemanship courses at the college. She and her husband Bill owned Moose Creek Ranch. I took on a job as a pen cleaner, and eventually purchased Raudi and boarded her at their place. Over the years I got to know Katie, Bill, Charlene, and Charlene’s husband Bill quite well. I consider all to be good friends.

To this day I find it hard to believe that Katie has Alzheimer’s. When I first met her, she was starting to have a hard time remembering names. I then had no idea that this was anything serious. After she stopped teaching she began to go downhill quite quickly.

Charlene, Hattie, and I found Katie in the living room – she was sleeping. Charlene woke her up by giving her a gentle backrub and talking to her in a soft face. Katie woke up, and saw Charlene. A huge smile then crossed her face.

I hadn’t seen Katie in a number of years. She’s no longer able to converse, but she recognized Charlene, Hattie, and me. She’s not the Katie I used to know – that Katie was fairly no-nonsense. This Katie was childlike, and took great delight in having visitors.

I began taking pictures. No one seemed to mind, so I just kept taking them. The living room was large and open – the windows faced the Chugach Range so there was ample light. It was a very comfortable setting.

Bill, Katie’s husband came by later in the afternoon for a visit. He sat down beside Katie and she snuggled up next to him and went back to sleep. It then occurred to me that Katie is about as fortunate as someone who has Alzheimer’s disease could possibly be. Family members routinely come and visit her, and she has excellent care-givers. We should all be so lucky.

Next: 108. 3/26/12: Katie Long, Continued