In my last blog post, I shared insights on the current challenges in funding research to support curing Alzheimer’s disease. You’d think that funding would be the biggest step in the treatment process. It’s not.
In order to develop and properly test potential cures, scientists need a viable population of test subjects to study. As Karen Ellen Foley wrote (Quartz, May 20, 2018), it’s incredibly hard to gather these patients. Once a patient appears to have the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, they have usually passed the stage where it can be treated. The damage to the neurons is irreversible and not suitable for testing new cures.
Recognizing Symptoms is Critical to Curing Alzheimer’s
In addition to the late timing of symptoms, there is another complication to the diagnosis process. Not only is it hard to recognize the slow shift in behavior, but patients are often surrounded by family and friends who would rather not admit that their loved one is in need of medical care.
Foley describes a gentleman whose early Alzheimer’s symptoms started in the mid-2000’s. He knew something was wrong because fixing things around the house became difficult and names of friends slipped his mind. He couldn’t remember how to cut his wife’s hair, which he’d been doing throughout their marriage. This man and his wife saw he was having problems and refused to admit it could be serious.
Ten years later, his behavior finally got extreme enough that his wife insisted he see a doctor. For ten years, he was allowed to ignore his medical condition. For ten years, he avoided treatment. And why? They were both afraid how the diagnosis would change their lives. The disease didn’t care. It continued to escalate, with or without their acceptance.
The great majority of my clients refuse to acknowledge how incapacitated they are by dementia, and their families often go out of their way to continue the ruse and deny the obvious.
We have had several dementia sufferers among the members of my Rotary club. Even with my vast experience with my clients who are cognitively impaired, I don’t always notice every case. Alzheimer’s disease is easy to cover up, at least in early-to-mid stages.
Know the Signs
A tell-tell sign of dementia is sometimes a vacuous or a scowling expression. I sometimes misinterpret their mood as, “I don’t want to talk with you”. Message received. I leave them alone. Only later, when I learn of their diagnosis, I can connect the dots. Withdrawal is a classic sign of dementia.
I’ve attended enough Alzheimer’s disease (AD) presentations to know that faulty business decisions are another primary indicator of AD. I’ve had more than one client who insisted they were able to manage their business affairs. When they fall behind in paying their bills, it looks like simple forgetfulness. When one of those bills is their Long Term Care insurance (LTCi) premium, the results are catastrophic.
The Enabling Spouse
In an attempt to keep things feeling “normal”, the spouse will often avoid stepping in to help their loved one. They don’t take over the paying of bills. They make excuses and pretend nothing is wrong.
They still allow their spouse to drive!
The thought of this is terrifying to me. I have a friend who has a dementia diagnosis. She is still highly functional, and still driving, despite the fact that she’s already had a couple of accidents!
I’ve blogged about age-related, normal cognitive decline. This is not what I’m describing, yet this is what people want to believe is happening.
Admitting you have dementia is difficult and requires an honest conversation. Maybe multiple conversations. It creates the possibility for earlier intervention and a life of more grace and dignity. It will allow for more open relationships with friends and family members and reduce stress for the patient and family.
Advance planning for long term care (LTC) is the best way to ensure dignity, options, choices, grace. When you’re ready to explore your options, click here for your personal quote.