WHERE ARE WE TODAY?
Tracking Brain Disease
Some of my readers are familiar with dementia. It is a growing #health issue and it seems to be more prevalent today more than ever before. Many of you are as I am, caring for a family member that was unknowingly stalked and taken captive by Dementia like a cloaked attacker. Though we all face our ends at some point in life’s travels, where this disease impacts families, there is another kind of loss akin to death, that shadows the same course to a conjoined end. For once the diagnosis is made after growing signs stir concern, a clinical diagnosis follows which heralds an approaching intrusion already en route.
The stages of grief in dementia begin early, not just for the end of one’s life. First, there is a loss of your cherished friend or relative with whom you were most familiar; even before the victim of this disease can comprehend it themselves. Grief is silently shared by those who companion them through the process. Where a lifetime of experiences carved out the individuality of the one you love dearly, you find yourself helplessly on the sidelines while time now seems to unravel who they once were in function and character. The traits and behaviors which clearly identified your loved one seems to get erased away in passing sweeps until what remains is a faded copy of who they once were. It is a very difficult and emotionally exhaustive process for friends and family members to experience.
After assuming a care-taking role for a relative with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, I found myself in a role an of a spectator and clinical reviewer as the course of this progressive disease evolved. Patterns of thought process and coordination became impacted as particular symptom clusters became evident. There was a stepwise dysfunction in particular skills and abilities at different points. In the early stages, at times there seemed to be a brief return of some lost function lasting days, stirring some hope of restoration. Unfortunately, disappointment was not far behind as it was followed by a decline in function back to the initial loss first observed. Windows of greater clarity followed by decline add to the toll on the emotions in the hearts of loved ones, Yet the current reality is that there is only one course for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Without any known effective treatment, having awareness ad guarded hopes are the best posture for remaining a stable support for those suffering from this disease.
In the course of this disease, with each descending floor of dysfunction, more challenges become apparent. Different #strategies are often required with some preparation for losses that are on the verge of manifestation. Assuring safety and taking appropriate steps to modify the environment becomes increasingly important to prevent avoidable harms and risks. It is within this line of conscientious awareness and concern, that I wrote this particular post. Since there is a great variation in how the brain is attacked with a variety of skill losses for each individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (or for the different forms of dementia), status awareness is essential. Knowing “what comes next” will be both helpful and informative for those that serve a supportive role. In order to be equipped optimally, I have compiled a “clue list” which allows caretakers to “peek inside” the black box of #brain function. By utilizing this tool, hopefully, concerned caretakers of family and friends with Alzheimer’s Disease, will be more aptly prepared.
So What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative brain disorder. The disease breaks down and destroys brain cells and the neurons that connect brain cells to one another. This damage causes a decline in memory, behavior, and mental capabilities. Every person’s journey with AD is diﬀerent. For some, the disease progresses slowly and leaves mental function largely intact for several years. For others, AD is aggressive and quickly robs people of their memory. (healthline.com)
Resource: http://www.brain-maps.com/alzheimer.html; “Affected Brain Regions in Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Using the above chart, if you are seeing consistent signs of common regions being affected, you can begin to anticipate what kinds of disorders are likely to follow. Even though the site of brain injury can begin in a wide variety of sites, the progressive course of this disease seems to expand out from the affected regions. For example, if there is a clear problem with word finding, it will remain problematic before the loss of speech formation is affected. Using creative ways to help the loved one communicate will be more beneficial than expecting what was once readily available in dialogue.
Anxiety over loss can only add to the deficits of function. Any creative ways to normalize the loss and help adapt to loss will ease the transition for both the affected individual and their caretakers.
I hope those of you who are caretakers facing this difficulty will benefit from this resource.