Monday, April 24, 2017
Last week Kaiser Health News (one of my favorite go-to sites) ran this story, How To Help Alzheimer’s Patients Enjoy Life, Not Just ‘Fade Away’. The article opens explaining that Alzheimer's is #1 on the list of diseases folks in the U.S. most fear. The loss of self is a big part of that fear. However, "a sizable body of research suggests this Alzheimer’s narrative is mistaken. It finds that people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia retain a sense of self and have a positive quality of life, overall, until the illness’s final stages... They appreciate relationships. They’re energized by meaningful activities and value opportunities to express themselves. And they enjoy feeling at home in their surroundings."
Just how many folks with Alzheimer's have a good quality of life? According to Dr. Peter Rabins, "[o]verall, about one-quarter of people with dementia report a negative quality of life, although that number is higher in people with severe disease.” What are the implications of this? To make sure that folks with Alzheimer's have a quality of life, "[promote] well-being [which] is both possible and desirable in people with dementia, even as people struggle with memory loss, slower cognitive processing, distractibility and other symptoms."
Folks with severe or end-stage Alzheimer's present a different challenge. For others, the article suggests the following: emphasis social connections, maximize physical health, improve communications, respond to unmet needs, and give deference to individuality and autonomy.
"None of this is easy. But strategies for understanding what people with dementia experience and addressing their needs can be taught. This should become a priority, Rabins said, adding that 'improved quality of life should be a primary outcome of all dementia treatments.'"