Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reveling in the Past Together

Alzheimer's is something that hits really close to home for me. I've had two grandparents suffer from dementia and neither of them was easy. I wish I had this article New Approach to Alzheimer's Disease has Caregivers 'Escaping Reality' with the Patient by Carina Corral. My father's mother was the most recent grandparent to have the disease (and I remember going through it with her better) and I remember my father, at first, being really apprehensive to allowing Lillian to wander around in her memories and hallucinations. He constantly tried to tell her that her husband or neighbor who both died several decades ago had not visited her or that she wasn't being taken back home at night to sleep on the couch. She would then get very confused and angry (which was really strange because before the disease, I had never seen my grandmother angry). It took a lot of prodding on my part to try to convince him to just go with what she was saying, that it would be better for all of us.

Corral's article is about reveling in the memories with the patient. A nurse that she interviewed says: "'[Experts] saw that to try to repeat what was really happening for that patient for that loved one was only frustrating for both parties. Nothing was accomplished. You can't fix the memory loss, the disorientation or the hallucination, so it's kind of let's use what's going on with them to their benefit'" (Corral). Personally, I noticed that when we visited my grandmother and went along with her strange stories or retold a memory all of us were a lot happier, especially my grandmother. It's hard to see someone you love deteriorate in front of your eyes and not be able to help them, but being able to have pleasant, though strange, conversations and create more good memories with them is such a reprieve. It's a "pleasant distraction" for the patient, the caregiver, and the family/loved ones.
(kind of cheesy but the tips apply to what Corral's article talks about)

I think Rene Descartes would agree with this idea of dealing with Alzheimer's: "It is not necessary that I should show that all of these are false - I shall perhaps never arrive at this end" (Descartes 17). Descartes believed that if you can justify your reality and it seems right to you, than it's "real". Therefore, people who suffer from Alzheimer's have their reality replaced with their memories and hallucinations and are not necessarily aware of this shift after it has happened (though, going through the change must be scary as hell). When they are told that what they think is real isn't, they get really upset and confused. Imagine someone telling you that your reality isn't "real" and see how you'll feel and react. Descartes' major tag line is "I think therefore I am", something that can also be applied to Alzheimer's patients. If the patient is in a memory or hallucination in which they are a child, when in fact they are actually 89, their reality has become them being a child and not an 89 year old person. These patients are not just remembering things from the past, they are living in them.

1 comment:

  1. Such an interesting link to the Descartes... and a moving post...


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