Over the Hill

Buy Alzheimer’s postage stamps to help end the disease that took my wife

Phil and Mamie Dirkx on their wedding day, Sept. 19, 1953. Mamie died on July 4, 2017, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Phil and Mamie Dirkx on their wedding day, Sept. 19, 1953. Mamie died on July 4, 2017, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Courtesy photo

There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medical scientists are busily seeking one. And all of us non-scientists can help by buying Alzheimer’s stamps at our Post Offices.

My wife Mamie died of Alzheimer’s last year on the Fourth of July, but I just learned about the stamps a couple of months ago.

Local United States Post Office branches sell Alzheimer’s stamps. The stamps not only get your letters delivered, but part of what you pay for them goes toward Alzheimer’s research.

You can buy the stamps anytime, although this month (September) has been designated as Alzheimer’s Month to increase public awareness. And this coming Friday, Sept. 21, is Alzheimer’s Day. My daughter, Sandy, told me about it last Friday.

Phil and Mamie Dirkx in 2010 Courtesy photo

Some of you may never have heard of Alzheimer’s Month and Day. But they’re important because they publicize Alzheimer’s, which is a deadly disease that can attack anyone. I started making notes of Mamie’s confusion and depression back in 2007. It just kept getting worse until it finally killed her.

The World Alzheimer’s Month organization says almost 50 million people in the world suffer with dementia, and 50 to 60 percent of them have Alzheimer’s dementia. The organization says, “There is currently no cure for dementia, but treatment and support are available.”

Mamie did get treatment and counseling from her doctors and psychiatrist. They did prescribe medications, but her condition kept growing worse in stages. She thought she saw people on the roofs across the street. She also tried to wander off at night. I had to hold the doors closed to stop her.

She called the police. I had to disconnect the phones. She tried to hit me, but I could usually duck. And she couldn’t hit hard. Each spell ended when she was finally exhausted. She wasn’t always disturbed.

That went on until 2014, when I had brain surgery. (Mamie didn’t cause that.) So, for a few months, we lived in the same nursing home. That worked out well. I was able to visit her and have meals with her. But then I went home, and she went to a different nursing home. I still visited her every day.

Finally, after almost three more years, the Alzheimer’s took Mamie away.

So what can we do about Alzheimer’s? I’d say we could at least buy Alzheimer’s stamps at our post offices instead of regular postage stamps. We can use Alzheimer’s stamps to mail all our bill-payments, birthday cards, Christmas cards and whatever else we put in the mail.

Alzheimer’s stamps do cost a little more than regular postage stamps, but they do more. They support Alzheimer’s research. They cost 65 cents each instead of 50 cents like regular stamps. I don’t miss the 15 cents. And if enough of us buy them, our money will add up. Let’s stamp out Alzheimer’s.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades and his columns appear every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or pmdirkx@spcglobal.net.
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