Mr. Hockey and His Fight Against Dementia

By now, most of us have learned that Gordie Howe is suffering from dementia. Unfortunately, there’s some misinformation floating around that suggests that this is Gordie’s own fault for not wearing a helmet. Some people may also think that he’s completely lost and has no idea who or where he is. From my own personal experience, I don’t believe either of those things are true.

Make the jump to learn why:

I worked for a year as a line-in caregiver for a retirement home that housed five elderly residents ranging from ages 85 to 97. Each one was in different stages of dementia, but they were all still able to do what their bodies would allow them, meaning their dementia was a problem, but didn’t keep them from being able to walk or change the channel on the TV. Others were just so old that they couldn’t walk anymore, but that wasn’t from dementia.

As for concussions leading to his illness, it’s not impossible, but none of the people I looked after played contact sports. For that matter, only one played a sport and that was tennis.

Tennis doesn’t usually lead to head injuries. But how is Gordie doing? Is he active or is he sitting on a recliner watching the Game Show Network?

From Sports Illustrated:

“He’s still Mr. Hockey and that’s what is so great because he’s just such a pleasure to have around,” Murray (Howe’s son) said. “He’ll wake up first thing in the morning and there’s a bunch of leaves outside and he’ll rake for three hours. He’s so pleasant and upbeat.”

I can’t get over how awesome that is. I’m so out of shape and useless, I don’t know if I could rake leaves for 3 hours if I had to, let alone enjoy it.

“He can easily walk four miles on very hilly terrain without a problem,” Murray said.

Okay, now you’re just showing off, sir.


So could Mr. Hockey skate a shift at the alumni game? Sounds like it, but honestly, why risk it?

One lady I was looking after had the ability to dress herself and had no trouble eating alone until she fell and hit her head. After that, she was a different person. She couldn’t dress herself, couldn’t eat without help and fell even more often. If Gordie Howe wants to skate a shift, or just show up and wave, that’s up to him. We’ll cheer for him no matter what. Just let him do what he thinks is best.

Either way, we need to make sure he never forgets that day. I remember one night, one of our residents was in full panic mode. He was worried about finding car keys to a car that had probably been in a junk yard for 35 years, worried about finding his wallet, worried about this, that and the other thing. But I knew that he had been an avid duck hunter when he was younger, so I put in a duck hunting DVD, cranked up the sound so he could hear it and he was a different person. He forgot all about his troubles and just enjoyed the video. He told me a dozen times that he used to go duck hunting, but eventually he just fell asleep. He wasn’t worried anymore.

So when Gordie Howe walks out of that tunnel, whether he’s in uniform or street clothes, we need to make sure he never forgets the reception he gets. It needs to be the best introduction he’s ever gotten. Make that noise something that he just can’t forget, so that when the sun finally sets on our greatest legend, he can go with a smile.


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