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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Little We Understand Alzheimer’s


I encourage anyone who provides care or has a family member or friend diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to educate yourselves.

Bob DeMarco recently posted the story of Eldon Foster's death after wandering away from an assisted living facility.

Besides the sadness I felt for Eldon, I was highly angered by the stupidity of comments left on the article describing Eldon's death.

By Angil Tarach-Ritchey
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I have taken a couple days to process this so I don’t unleash my thoughts and anger, but a couple days after the fact continues to leave me angry and sad.

The stupidity and ignorance expressed in the comments reinforces that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.

Persons suffering from this devastating disease are victimized a second time by the ignorance that is so prevalent.

Mr. Foster’s own brother-in-law stated
“He made the decision to confront the cold, knowing what the result would be, knowing that maybe it would cost him his life. But that was okay. That was okay....His quality of life was not much.”
This one statement confirms the ignorance.

Eldon did not make a conscious decision and understand the consequences of his decision!

I am still in disbelief that a family member of Mr. Foster’s would even make a remark like this. Obviously, this family member did not educate himself on his brother-in-law’s disease.

I wonder what Eldon’s sister and the rest of the family think about this statement? I wonder if his sister educated herself, or anyone else in the family for that matter?

Other comments include calling this situation trivial, turning the focus to illegal homecare workers (I challenge anyone to fully check out my Visiting Angels homecare agency to find an illegal worker).

Another commenter wished his grandmothers had died the same way, and others stated Eldon's death was good because his quality of life was poor.

The lack of compassion and understanding really stopped me in my tracks and angered me beyond an immediate response.

I feel people that are uneducated about Alzheimer’s should refrain from making public comments that again victimize those affected by this horrible disease. These types of comments contribute to the shame and embarrassment newly diagnosed person’s experience.

They disgraced the name of a man that died so tragically, and they contribute to the depression and suicide rate of Alzheimer’s patients. The comments are hurtful to the family caregiver’s who have done what is necessary to provide the best quality of life possible for their loved ones.

All of those that made such ignorant comments could be in Eldon’s shoes one day. They might feel differently if they looked at the situation from a different perspective. Try putting yourself in Eldon's shoes for just a moment and read the comments again.

Alzheimer’s patients, and their educated, compassionate caregiver’s need support, understanding, and for those around them to educate themselves on this horrible disease. It’s funny how people look at and treat folks with a brain illness differently than a disease in other parts of the body, like cancer, or MS.

I encourage anyone who provides care or has a family member or friend diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to educate themselves.

Please don’t add to the devastation an Alzheimer’s patient or their caregiver experiences. Be empathetic to their situation and what they must be going through. Don’t make assumptions on something you have not taken the time to educate yourselves on, because you just appear stupid and heartless.

Although this post appears angry and mean, I believe it is necessary to be a voice for those who can’t advocate on their own behalf, and for this I make no apologies.

If you’re not defensive about my post, and are open to learning more about this devastating disease, you can start with an article Bob wrote in August about wandering.

Almost anything you would want to learn about Alzheimer’s can be found on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. Just use the search tool to learn more about specific subjects related to Alzheimer’s, and help yourself to become a more educated and compassionate person.


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Angil Tarach-Ritchey(RN GCM) has over 30 years of experience, and is a nationally known expert in senior care and advocacy. Angil is also the owner of Visiting Angels in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Original content Angil Tarach-Ritchey, the Alzheimer's Reading Room