Alzheimer's: Writing on the Edge of Forgetfulness
Alzheimer’s: a word that can strike fear in the hearts of both the young and old alike. It is a degenerative disease in nature, which means that it not only affects the victim but also the people around him or her. Sometimes referred to as Alzheimer’s senile dementia, this condition is characterized by progressive and exponential neuronal death alongside the atrophy of certain areas of the brain. As a result, the person begins to suffer memory loss. It first affects short-term memory, then as the disease progresses, it affects long-term memory to the point where he or she may permanently forget his or her family and loved ones.
Fortunately, despite being the most common type of dementia, 5 to 8 out of 12 cases of dementia fall into this category, making it still an uncommon disease. However, there is a running misconception that Alzheimer’s, or senility in general, is a normal part of human development, which implies that as one grows old, they will eventually develop this disease. However, as the experts in the Alzheimer’s Association’s website say, the disease is not a normal part of aging, though the confusion is understandable since, while its causes still remain unknown to this day, old age plays a pivotal role in the onset of the disease. That being said, Alzheimer’s is more common in individuals over 65 years of age, and the life expectancy of those who suffer from it is usually 4 to 6 years after the symptoms become noticeable. Though, with proper care and medication, a person can live upwards of 20 years with Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to note that while the disease does not directly kill its victim, the complications that stem from extended periods of lying down or sitting, which are common in its advanced stages due to decreased muscle mass, coupled with incontinence and decaying hygienic conditions can bring about fatal secondary infections that slowly deteriorate his or her health. Alzheimer’s is, by definition, a terminal condition; the person will never recover from the disease. However, through the use of medication, its symptoms can be slowed and the inevitable fall into ‘permanent forgetfulness’ can be stalled.
Loss of identity, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness is the worst part of Alzheimier’s. Experts and professionals have tried to depict accurately the topic of loss of ‘self’. Even though many have from a first-person perspective tried to describe the symptoms at advanced stage but without experiencing the disease, describing the symptoms is impossible. The person at this point is not able to even convey organized ideas or thoughts hence giving a firsthand recap also are impossible.
In Alzheimier’s the person to perform the most basic tasks has to rely exclusively on others since in this disease loses his or her self and also has the ability to fend for themselves. For those who support their loved ones knowledge becomes an important asset. Hence medical knowledge has been combined with anecdotal experience by authors and experts. This is to accurately depict how the disease evolves and from the first-person perspective how it affects the patient.
Problem with some literature
Since it is difficult to know what the disease is like sometimes speculation is required to give a true-to-life depiction of the disease. The person still retains certain lucidity and certain basic ideas are conveyed up until the penultimate phase of the disease. The person however loses most of his basic functions as the disease progresses into advanced and final stage. Hence when describing the disease authors must turn to theorizing the disease.
Some writers have put pen to paper in several occasions. These include Diane Keaton, David Shenk and Thomas DeBaggio. On the harsh reality of those who suffer from the disease, they have created novels. Their stories consist of works of fiction. Though some are based on medical information but they also present anectdotal information on Alzheimier’s disease. Such stories are brilliant.
David Shenk’s the forgetting Alzheimier’s
His book The Forgetting Alzheimier’s: Portrait of an Epidemic explores the findings of Alois Alzheimier’s a neurologist in the early twentieth century and it provides a tour of Alzheimier’s. The book talks about how in brain autopsies he detected fibers and plaques in two victims. These victims before their deaths were bedridden. They suffered from the symptoms of memory loss, delirium, deterioration of their sense of self. Also certain other Alzheimier’s cases have been explored. This book gives a realistic overview of the disease although it is dark and depressing. Those whose love ones are afflicted by the disease can benefit from this book.
Lisa Genova’s Still Alice
In this book a person’s Alzheimier’s journey is depicted. It focuses on Alice Howland and how due to early-onset of Alzheimier’s she went through dementia. For caregivers this book provides an informative guide.
About Alzheimier’s there are many books also depicting how the person and those around are affected by the disease. Many books themselves are standalone novels. To those currently suffering from the early stages of Alzheimier’s many books can provide much needed support and they have great literary works. Some book help understand the condition, some in times of turmoil may provide solace. Some may be helpful for the caregivers whose loved ones are in the advanced stages of Alzheimier’s.