Alzheimer's Disease and The Care Provider
Alzheimer's Disease is somewhat different from many of the other neurological
diseases. Alzheimer's disease is the only pathological source that can short-circuit,
and wreak havoc not only on the victim, but also affect the care giver in ways I've
not seen in any other disease.
In fact, one could say the way Alzheimer's Disease develops and affects the
victim is unique. This unique road leads to stresses and strains on the care
giver that are also unique. Assistance and resources for the care giver is just
as important as getting medical attention for the patient.
Who Is The Care Giver?
Most often the care giver is the spouse, or family of the victim. In this case,
the care giver not only cares for, but loves the victim very much. The care
giver can be someone who sits or stays with the patient for certain durations of
time throughout the day or week. Many times, I've seen great numbers of family
members provide coordinated efforts when caring for the patient.
When observing care givers and families caring for a patient with Alzheimer's,
I've seen certain characteristics that are unique to this disease and very disturbing.
I've seen cases where, although the patient was suffering from Alzheimer's, it
seemed that the family suffered somewhat to a greater degree because of the fact
that the patient could no longer remember things and wasn't aware of most of the
strains and stresses developing daily.
The Care Giver Suffers Along With The Patient With Alzheimer's Disease
For instance, in one specific case a woman was losing many of her memories and
deteriorating at a steady rate. Although our therapists would work with her and
try to build functional skills physically, and mentally, she seemed to not be
aware of her decline and was therefore, in a way, spared the suffering and
depression that came along with her decline. However, the patient's family
suffered greatly because they were watching their mother, and spouse, decline daily.
In this case, the family confided in me that they feel as though their mother,
and spouse, is slowly becoming a stranger. Although the family, and loved ones,
realized that this is a pathological process and the patient could not help what
was happening, it was difficult for hurt emotions to not factor in the situation
and add to the stresses.
Since the patient commonly doesn't know what is happening during the Alzheimer's
Disease process, to the outsider or analyzer, it would seem that the family
suffers significantly more than the patient only because the patient isn't as
acutely aware. Because of this decrease in awareness, the patient is spared the
mental anguish that accompanies the steady rate of decline.