Oct 8, 2009

The Faces of Alzheimer’s

The Faces of Alzheimer’sBy Angil Tarach
Alzheimer's Reading Room

When I was first introduced to the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, I have to say the first time I saw the facial logo, distorted in nature, I thought it was a little creepy. With more thought, I understand this logo on a much deeper level.

It really isn’t the face that’s distorted but the view of how the general public sees a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Unless you are personally close to a person with Alzheimer’s, or are one of the special people who work with Alzheimer’s patients, and understand the disease, you most likely see the person as a disease, rather than a person with a disease.

I would like to help clarify the faces of Alzheimer’s, in an effort to clear the distortion. This disease is like any physical disease, such as diabetes, cancer, or the other thousands of diseases that affect a specific part of the body. Alzheimer's affects the brain, rather than another organ. Because brain diseases affect personality most people tend to see them as different, in their own separate category. In reality brain diseases are just like any other disease in any other part of the body.

So what can we do to help people understand the similarities, and the need to see and treat patients with Alzheimer’s, as we would, say a cancer patient? Education is primary, but there is another component here, a psychological, emotional, and social component.

Whether you are one of the millions of unpaid caregiver’s, a medical professional, or an average individual who hasn’t experienced spending time with a person with Alzheimer’s, it’s important for you to evaluate your thoughts about what you think when you look at a person affected by this horrible disease.

Alzheimer’s does not discriminate. It affects the young and old, rich and poor, highly educated and uneducated, men, and women. The individuals behind the face of Alzheimer’s are grandmothers, and grandfather’s, moms and dads, sisters, and brothers, aunts, and uncles, co-workers, friends, and neighbors.

I have been honored and privileged to meet and spend time with authors, master sculptors, teachers, CEO’s, nationally recognized sports figures, war veterans, doctors, nurses, pilots, housewives, and people that have dedicated their lives to voluntary efforts, to name a few. These are the faces of Alzheimer’s. They have family, and friends, and neighbors, and co-workers. They are you and me.

So I ask you again to evaluate your thoughts. Are they still distorted, or are you seeing a clearer picture of those affected? It is very difficult to talk with someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is a helpless feeling when they share the difficulties and emotions they are experiencing, knowing the disease is progressive and incurable.

Many people I have met that were newly diagnosed share the fact that they are embarrassed. As if they have done something to be stricken with this dreadful disease.

Has our distorted view of Alzheimer’s really been the cause of their feelings of embarrassment? I think it has. Can we do better to help Alzheimer’s patients not experience this horrible and wasted emotion? I think we can. Embarrassment causes social withdraw, which leads to depression. All additional negative feelings added on to a person already dealing with so much.

Let’s all understand these are real people, with real lives, who have randomly been affected. Let’s help them through this extremely difficult life change with a correct view of who they are and support them with understanding, and attention to THEIR needs, not our own fears, and distorted view.

To all the people newly diagnosed, or experiencing this horrible disease, I honor you, and who you are. Don’t spend your energy on the feeling of embarrassment. Stand on the rooftop and shout who you are! Show everyone that they can be you. Be the voice for what this devastating disease is doing to you, and those who love you, and maybe we will all understand a little better, that you are a person with a disease, rather than a disease.

In the middle of writing this article I received a phone call that my Godmother, Jean Rodzik passed away. She died at 88 years old with Alzheimer’s. She was a wonderful woman loved by everyone that knew her. Jean wasn’t a blood relative. She was a dear family friend that was adored, and my parents thought enough of her to ask her to be my Godmother.

I thank her for accepting my parents request, and the love and joy she brought to me and all of our family. I dedicate this article to the memory of Jean Rodzik. God Bless You Jean, I love you. Angil

For further understanding of my effort to change our perception of those with Alzheimer's and the elderly I invite you to read about my future book, Behind the Old Face.

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Original content Angil Tarach Alzheimer's Reading Room