Alzheimer’s patients are generally perceived as being weak, helpless, closed off and destroyed by the disease.
And the devastating effects that the disease has do not end with the patient. Even the patients’ caregivers may have unfortunate reactions. They may develop a deep depression once the diagnosis is made, despondence, or grief when thinking of what’s to come and realizing that fate’s plans for them and their own plans differed.
They may exhibit anger directed at the situation itself, anger directed at God, or even anger directed at the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They may also abandon any hope they have of finding a life partner.
If the general perception is to be believed, Alzheimer’s disease is a grim illness that affects not only the patient, but also their loved ones. However several field experts have published books shinning an entirely new light on the subject. Their intention is not to underestimate the severity of the disease but to clarify that Alzheimer’s patients are still affected by the things happening around them and are still capable of enjoying life.
In The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care, David Troxel and Virginia Bell wrote that people pay too much attention to “the ‘tragic side’ of Alzheimer’s disease”. This can cause caretakers to not offer their loved ones the best care and abandon all hope of connecting with them.
Teepa Snow, nationally renowned Alzheimer’s caregiving expert, gave a statement echoing the same feeling. She said that “Almost all people with dementia, even those in the later stages of the disease, can enjoy life if they have the right support and environment”.
In Creating Moments of Joy: A Journal for Caregivers, Jolene Brackey spoke about the issues as well. She said that she has a vision and that she hopes it will one day become real. That people will soon start to see past the challenges of Alzheimer’s and direct their efforts towards creating moments of joy for Alzheimer’s patients.
She explained that while it is impossible for caregivers to create a perfectly wonderful day for Alzheimer’s patients, they can certainly create perfectly wonderful moments that “put smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, or trigger [pleasant] memories”.
Tom Brenner, Alzheimer’s caregiving expert who along with his wife, Karen, teaches family members as well as professionals and medical staff how to look after Alzheimer’s patients, gave a statement on his own saying that a patient’s enjoyment of life is partly based on their loved ones enjoyment of them.
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Update: We kindly thank Dr. Marie Marley, PhD. for the inspiration for the detailed information in her article on Huffington Post.