Alzheimer's Dirty Secrets-Lessons from a Caregiver
Alzheimer's disease. Just the thought, a mere reflection of the words is scary. So scary in fact, that most of us do our best to keep from thinking about it at all. We are more comfortable denying vulnerability, and that's the dirty little secret of Alzheimer's. Early detection of Alzheimer's disease is vitally important, so not thinking about it, failing to be evaluated or to face a negative diagnosis will exacerbate onslaught if or when the disease arrives. There is no cure but scientific discovery has exhumed a handful of solutions that will slow progression.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. When you think about it, even the definition of the disease is innocuous- "problems with memory", "interfere with daily tasks". It sounds like a conquerable illness that is just a bit of an inconvenience. We all know differently, and we might as well face it.
Alzheimer's is devastatingly awful, a robber, that in it's final stages steals everything but the soul of the affected individual. No one is unscathed. Whole families are raided, and familial caregivers are left to the business of lovingly serving the patient, a mere shell of themselves.
Familial caregivers who trudge through the daily mire of loss that accompanies Alzheimer's might insist, that grasping an understanding of the disease is impossible without firsthand knowledge. This may be true. However, braving an intense look into the starkness of the disease, and making an earnest attempt at pulling back the curtain, will inevitably accomplish not only a better understanding, but also the kind of empathy that drives awareness, and structures personal and community efforts toward isolated caregivers who often operate unnoticed.