With Alzheimer’s, love and loss are intertwined

Pam and Charles Ogletree walked together at a park in Cambridge.

Portrait of couple contributes much to our understanding of this disease

Jenna Russell’s article about Charles and Pam Ogletree has contributed more to our understanding about the impact of Alzheimer’s disease than any I recall (“Brilliant, faithful, undaunted,” Page A1, Oct. 27).

As we brace ourselves to read about the losses that dim a brilliant scholar’s mind, this article teaches, through the heart and eloquence of Charles’s wife and caregiver, without whom he could not survive, what it is like to love someone who is slowly disappearing though physically present.

Pam speaks of the relief Charles felt three years ago when he revealed the truth about his condition and they no longer had to struggle to hide what is happening to his famous mind. We must recognize that while family and friends work relentlessly to provide safety and care for someone they love, they are simultaneously grieving the loss of that individual. Pam wishes the world understood Alzheimer’s better, as it understands, say, cancer or heart disease.


We can speak with people who have cancer or heart disease, and they can participate in planning and express their feelings. A caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s has lost the partnership of a beloved and trusted person who cannot join fully in coping with the disease. We must honor and support caregivers, and see their grace, exhaustion, and sadness. They are my heroes.

Barbara Moscowitz

Associate director of education and support

Dementia Caregiver Support Program

Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine

Massachusetts General Hospital


The writer is a licensed independent clinical social worker.

Story read with appreciation, sadness

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I have been deeply involved with the disease of Alzheimer’s over the last several years. My wife of 51 years died in August. I read Jenna Russell’s article on the journey of the Ogletrees with such an appreciation and sadness. I felt such kinship. It helped to understand that, no matter how much we have loved and cared for each other, this disease shakes us to our core. Thank you to Pam Ogletree for modeling such caring and for honestly talking about the struggles to take care of our loved one and ourselves.

Bob Kagey


Through illness, Ogletree still holds his compass

In Jenna Russell’s moving story about Charles and Pam Ogletree, I was particularly struck by a moment in Venice when Charles wandered off as his illness began to take hold.

If you ask directions in Venice, any Venetian will tell you, “Sempre dritto” (roughly, “just aim straight ahead”). In the Venetians’ view, you accept the twists and turns; at times you’ll be bewildered, but the journey matters as much as the arrival — if you do it right, it can matter more.

That’s pretty much what Charles has done: followed his own personal compass — keep moving forward, dispense kindness as you go, we’ll get there. That was his course when I first knew him, when he was a beginning public defender in the District of Columbia more than 40 years ago. No surprise to see that it still is.

James Doyle


The writer is a defense lawyer and former law professor.