Alzheimer's Disease And The Danger Of Denial
June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. The topic is an especially personal one for me as my mother has suffered from the disease for over a decade. Caring for her has been a challenge since she has only on a few occasions acknowledged having issues with memory or cognitive ability. With the help of friends experiencing a similar journey with their loved ones, resources like The 36 Hour Day, and developing more patience than I ever knew I could possess, it has been manageable. My wife and children have been a tremendous support system as well.
One of the most painful parts of the process, however, was working with my dad, who was in denial of mom's condition until his death in 2012. He often incited her to high levels of anger and frustration because he expected her to mentally function as she had in the past. He just wouldn't accept the fact that she had something wrong. Even after mom wandered off from their home one day and couldn't find her way back, he refused to acknowledge a problem. I am certain the stress caused by his denial and unwillingness to work with mom differently wore him down and may have even been a contributing factor in his death.
I know I am not alone in seeing loved ones refusing to acknowledge symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease or loss of cognitive ability in their dad, mom, or spouse. I see it all around me. My concern is that so many families make caring for the affected person so much more difficult because they won't face reality. They also increase tensions between each other at a time when they need each other the most. As an only child, I didn't have to struggle with brothers or sisters who were in denial, which I see happen on many occasions.
There are so many incredible resources available now that weren't available even five years ago. Failing to take advantage of them because you don't want to acknowledge reality only limits the quality of care you can provide, and heightens their frustration levels.
If one of your loved ones is showing signs of Alzheimer's Disease, start getting everyone on the page as soon as possible. Doing so improves the chances that the affected person can live a higher quality of life for a longer period of time... and isn't that what you really want for them?