To the editor: I’m glad screenwriter David Milch is coping well with his five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. He seems to still be alert, thoughtful and convincing. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for the vast majority of dementia patients and their families after several years.
When the true experience of dementia is quietly hidden by the media, those unaffected by it may not fully appreciate the exquisite misery suffered by patients as they decline and their loved ones who witness it.
There is obviously the loss of memory, but also the loss of bodily functions; the heartbreaking, wild west of trying to find in-home caregivers or “memory care” living centers; the depletion of savings, loss of work and any pretense of a normal life for the (usually) adult children or spouse on whom this burden falls; and the relentless pain.
They did not give me a road map or prepare me in any way for the long goodbye, first from my mother and then from my father. I wish someone had given me an honest view of what was coming, and I sincerely hope that those with a public or media voice would step forward and talk about dementia with the honesty, gravity and respect it demands.
Susan Deutsch, Venice
To the editor: I read your article about Milch with sadness and with the hope that this talented man will have something creative again. I want to share a story about his kindness.
When he was filming “Hill Street Blues” at what was known as Radford Studio in the early 1980s, I was a struggling character actress with a gimmick. I would stand in front of different studios with a board that said, “Audition Denise McCanles.”
While most people thought I was crazy, Milch would walk by me for lunch every time I was there and would always recognize me, smile, and say something encouraging. I will never forget his kindness. She made a young, insecure actress feel important.
Denise McCanles, West Hollywood