On a Sunday morning in late September, I stood on the state capitol grounds before the Walk To End Alzheimer’s started and looked out over a sea of purple, the color for the event worn by thousands of attendees. The walk drew those diagnosed with the disease, friends, family and a host of others concerned about it.
As one diagnosed with the disease in the spring of this year, the walk was a very important event for my family and I and a number of great friends who joined us.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is different then most other major diseases. A disease that affects one’s cognitive ability is just plan scary and in my conversations with many friends, I find that a lot are afraid they may have it or might aquire it.
The problem is that when one experiences the first signs of dementia many times the person moves to denial and the family may be unaware or also moves to denial. That denial can cause multiple problems some of which are downright dangerous.
As we age we all loose a bit of memory, we are not as good at remembering names, can’t figure out where we put our keys or loose track of a date. Those are normal aging issues. Dementia, turning into Alzheimer’s is a different issue that has no cure. The Alzheimer’s Association puts out a great pamphlet, which explains the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s.
The problem is that by denying or not understanding the extent of the cognitive damage it can create life-threating experiences such as car wrecks, and house fires because either the patient or the care giver are not willing to set up processes and procedures which change as the cognitive ability changes. To ignore those changes and not recognize the need for adjustments puts both the person with the disease and possibly others at risk.
The adjustments that are necessary in daily living activities require honesty, agreement, sensitivity, respect and importantly -no denial. Those changes are also a moving target and need to adjust as circumstances change. That change many times becomes hard as we recognize that decline is inevitable.
It is not easy and in fact is a real trick to get good processes and resources in place and then have continuous agreement on the constant review of the change needed.
An example may help understand this; I had a very realistic mother who said for a number of years. “When I don’t feel as if I can drive, I will let you know” and one day she called and said “come and get my car”. The trick was that she said it before she was a bad elderly driver. This example holds true for any action in your life in which your lack of cognitive awareness might harm you or others.
If you want to retain authority over your life be like my mother.
For those of you either with the diagnosis or acting as a caregiver just remember the following acronym-HASRND-Honesty- Agreement-Sensitivity-Respect –No- Denial.
Dick Goodson - one with the big A. 9/28/17