Saturday, April 07, 2007

Emotionally Abandoned Alzheimer’s Patients

I think Alzheimer’s disease is becoming a bigger concern for most people in this country. As the years go by, there seems to be more media on the disease, as well as more awareness about its deteriorating effects. This New York Times article investigates the window of opportunity to enjoy life before Alzheimer’s makes daily life too difficult to enjoy, and how many people are emotionally abandoned by their families as their condition deteriorates.
Should people with early stage Alzheimer’s be treated differently than “regular” people? They still have feelings, but in many cases, Alzheimer’s patients are saying that their spouses do not talk to them like they did before their diagnosis, and it makes their fate that much more difficult. Typically, patients have 2-5 years left to enjoy before Alzheimer’s really takes over their lives. Some people may experience short term memory loss, but can have lengthy conversations. Other people may not be able to form sentences easily, but retain their memory. In any case, shouldn’t we try to treat these people as if they didn’t have a medical problem?
There are groups in place that create volunteer opportunities for Alzheimer’s patients. According to this article, and other studies, it is important to give people a sense of responsibility, as long as they can handle it (mentally and physically). Some patients are guest speakers at different venues, but leave the stage and can’t remember what they spoke about.
I can’t think of anything more frustrating than a family member, let alone a spouse, getting annoyed because I’m suffering from a disease that cannot be controlled. I think it’s best to enjoy everyday activities with loved ones while you still can, and hopefully they’ll remain by your side, but what if they don’t? Feeling emotionally abandoned when you know you won’t remember your family, your name, your address, or how to speak must be awful, and if I am ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I would want all the support I could get.

Full article:

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