UNITED STATES—It was not too long ago where I took a psychology and sociology course that was focused on the devastating effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease on an individual and a family. I am not going to get into too much detail because this is a personal tale, but I have a family member suffering from both. The fear is the dementia is ultimately going to transition over into Alzheimer’s disease that slowly, but surely robs them of the ability to live a fulfilling life.
One day they were perfectly fine, the next day everything changed. They couldn’t recall how to get home. For a person who has traveled a route all of their life, they found themselves unable to remember how to get home. That was just the beginning as it became apparent their memory was fading slowly, but surely. A somewhat healthy individual, with the snap of a finger is no longer the same.
They don’t care about sports and this person was a die-hard sports fanatic. They have trouble remembering people’s name and they ask the same question over and over again. It is truly difficult for a person who hasn’t encountered a family member suffering from dementia or battling Alzheimer’s of the struggle and stress it places onto a family member, especially the caretaker for that individual. A person suffering from such a disease needs around the clock care.
There are some days that are better than others, but when the individual has a bad day, it can really test you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It is almost like you’re witnessing the life in them slowly slipping away and it is indeed devastating to witness. You wish there was some sort of magical pill or drug that could restore their memory or mindset to where they can function on a daily basis.
This is not a piece of someone whining about taking care of an ill individual. This is a piece to highlight the devastation that comes with dementia and Alzheimer’s that not many people understand. People just see it as a person has lost their memory or ability to recall things, but they would be quite wrong. There is much more unfolding than they realize. You have to ensure their meals are carefully planned and they eat at a consistent time. You have to ensure they take their medication daily; you have to ensure they don’t venture out and get lost.
That is a constant worry, that they vanish, and you have no idea where they may have gone as their mind wanders. It is scary, it is stressful, and it is a worry that you have constantly. You want a caretaker to be with them 24/7, but at the same time you don’t want to diminish the person to the point where they feel helpless or as if they’re unable to do anything of substance and purpose.
I do believe in the skillset of forcing their mind to stay active even though it is slowly deteriorating. Have them work on puzzles, try to do some reading, work on crossword puzzles, write, whatever you can get them to do to keep that mind active is key people. You don’t want the brain to do just do nothing that is the absolute worse with someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Finding a way to keep the person active whether physical or mental is key to delaying the potential onset and hopefully in due time a possible cure for such debilitating diseases.
Written By Jason Jones