Alzheimer’s Therapy

Imagine waking up one morning and having no idea where you are. You know that your wife should be in the kitchen and your kids should be playing or getting ready for school and you should getting ready to go to work and provide for your family. Instead, you are in a strange room, roughly the size of a motel room. You have a twin sized bed with a plastic mattress and another gentleman is sleeping in an identical bed on the other side of the room. Standing before you are a couple of nurses, whom you have never met and they are desperately trying to coerce you into taking medication that you do not recognize.

“Where am I?” “Who are you?” “Where’s my wife?” you demand. But your questions are ignored as these two strangers continue to attempt to poison you with unknown pills, all the while telling you to calm down.

Unfortunately, this is not the plot of a television drama or a paperback novel. With no known way to cure, slow, prevent, or even predict the onset of this terrible disease, which is currently the sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s disease destroys the minds of one in eight aging Americans. Still, the person who is diagnosed with this devastating illness will not be the only one to suffer: children, grandchildren, friends, siblings, and other caregivers must endure the difficult and painful task of explaining the absence of deceased loved ones and other losses, as well as assisting with daily activities and protecting the afflicted individual from their own mistakes; such as wandering away and being unable to find their way back or leaving something cooking on the stove and forgetting it is on. Due to the nature of this illness, many individuals require constant care and supervision. Thus, numerous families reluctantly take their loved ones to nursing facilities.

Alzheimer’s disease changes the way people think and function. Many of those diagnosed will eventually revert back to a child-like state, others will simply revert to a different time in their past, such as during their work life. In any event, the most effective therapy revolves around the structure of the environment and the daily routine is critical to optimal quality of life for these individuals. The main priority of caring for those with Alzheimer’s is to ensure that they are safe and as comfortable as possible. Drastic changes can cause fear and in some cases violence, therefore it is important to maintain a certain level of continuity.

Many long-term care facilities are now allowing their residents to engage in many behaviors that were once strictly prohibited. Indulgences such as chocolate, children’s toys and even moderate alcohol are just some of the things individuals are often able to enjoy in efforts to help them cope with the anxiety that often results from this disease. Depending on what stage of life an individual believes she is in, unconventional comforts, such as a baby doll to take care of or a chocolate bar everyday with dinner, can provide some sense of control over her circumstances. Essentially, control can mean the difference between improving or declining in many aspects of daily life for these individuals. Therefore, as long as they are safe, what harm is done by allowing Alzheimer’s patients these unorthodox pleasures?

 

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