Doctor Liu Xiuzhi, a professor at the National Yangming University and a specialist doctor at Taipei Rong, studied and treated people diagnosed with dementia throughout her career, and at then at the age of 70 was herself diagnosed with the condition.

Before her condition began to deteriorate and she could still write, the doctor wrote an open letter to all dementia patients and their families.

In the letter she calmly conveys the voice of a person with the early stages of dementia. It was written on September 8, 2010 and although the letter is now 9 years old, it is still very insightful.

The following is the original text of the letter translated into English:

“Dear friends:

I am writing this letter to tell everyone that I have dementia. However, you don’t have to be shocked. It is still mild, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write this. Of course, some words I can’t remember, many things can’t be chained together, and thoughts are often interrupted, so this letter was written with the help of my sister.

I am 70 years old this year and I am much older than people around me. I often get together with friends and family, play golf, travel abroad, get to know new people, and have been cared for by everyone. My sister often blames me for not worrying about my dementia – I became confused and asked questions and I also made mistakes with the dates of appointments.

After forgetting to turn off the tap and overflowing the sink, my sister took me to see a neurologist. After careful examination, the doctor told me that I had dementia, which is brain degeneration caused by Alzheimer’s disease in my case. I am taking medicine and hope to slow its progress. Since then, when I forget, my sister no longer blames me and says, “you didn’t tell me” or when I repeat things, there will be no strange look when she says, “you said it several times”, instead she now tells me it’s okay. She says, “It doesn’t matter” or “I will remember it for you”.

My golf skills have always been poor, but in the past six months, I haven’t remembered how many strokes I made on each hole. Is it the second and third stroke? Other golfers will help me count the number of clubs or ask their friend to help me count. After playing a few holes one day, I suddenly asked: “Are we playing the first hole now?” I saw the horror of the other golfers. I think it is time to admit that I need help with these things.

The doctor said that it is not shameful to get sick. Every organ in the body may be sick. Dementia is a disease of the brain, just like gallstones are diseases of the gallbladder, and lung cancer is a disease of the lungs. However, I lost my confidence and began to experience anxiety, because I don’t know if I am going to make a mistake. I always ask myself “Is it right?”. I have already said it many times, and I can’t express it in my heart. I often feel that I can’t breathe.  When I have a meal at a restaurant, I have to visit the bathroom several times. My son took me to see a cardiologist and a urologist, but they all said nothing, and the atmosphere was tense.

I understand that my memory and other cognitive functions are like hands holding things. I will lose my functions one by one. Even the feeling of sand under my feet on the beach will be lost soon. Maybe one day, the road I am familiar with will look strange, and I will not be able to remember my loved ones’ names. I may forget to eat and bathe. However, just now I have only slight dementia. I can still swing a club and enjoy hitting the ball. I can enjoy food, enjoy the scenery, and understand jokes. I can feel the love of everyone. Maybe I won’t remember it later. It is indeed a lesson in “living in the present.”

If we can help a friend who finds it difficult to move because of a stroke by letting them walk slowly, I hope that everyone can accept a friend who easily forgets because of dementia. Give them guidance, let them move at their own speed. Each of us has the opportunity to face this situation personally today, so please be sure to grasp every moment, and to live a beautiful life without regrets.”