Alzheimer’s disease is a permanent condition that mainly affects the elderly. Besides it being a substantial burden to the healthcare system, it is also a challenge to the patients themselves, as well as caregivers (Salawu, Umar & Olokoba, 2011). As such, Alzheimer’s has become a significant public health issue and at the moment, the condition is thought to have affected more than 5 million people in the United States alone. In addition, the healthcare costs associated with the conditions is believed to be in the region of US $ 100 billion every year (Grossberg, 2008). The disease is often characterized by progressive deterioration of a patient’s global and cognitive functioning (Salawu et al, 2011). As the disease progresses patients are not able to care take care of themselves and their family has to assume the role of a caregiver. The amount of time that a caregiver spends with an Alzheimer’s patient is directly proportional to the caregiver burden. Although Alzheimer’s patients have to encounter a lot of problems and anxiety when faced with the condition, nonetheless, I feel that living with Alzheimer’s disease is more challenging for the care-giving family members.
Alzheimer’s patients have no memory of the events of the day and even after you have reminded them, they will keep on asking the same questions. The care giving family members have to live with having to constantly answer the same questions from the patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The patient can recall events and activities when they were still young but have no memory at all of recent events. For example, in Michael Ignatieff’s short story “Deficits”, her mother who is now living with Alzheimer’s disease, can vividly recall how as a young girl, she was ran over by a Model T Ford. She also remembers how her grandmother would encourage them to eat more at the dinner table (Norton & Waldman, 2011). However, she is not in a position to accomplish such simple task as setting the table or dicing an onion. In addition, she cannot remember who her grandson is, and has to be reminded time and again that indeed, he is her grandson. The caring family members have to fight with such thoughts constantly as they have to keep on reminding her of such little things as for example, where her husband is or when he will be back. The caring family members have to learn how to live with Alzheimer’s patient and knowing that the patient in question was capable of accomplishing a lot when they were still healthy, they cannot help but feel sorry for them (Goedert & Spillantini, 2006). Because Alzheimer’s disease can be a genetic condition, some family members are even fearful that they could one day have to live with the condition as well, and this is a constant source of fear for them. The loss of interest in some of the activities that an Alzheimer’s patient used to love can also affect family members. For example, the author’s mother used to love swimming but she has since lost interest in this activity and this has really affected her son.
I also think that living with Alzheimer’s disease is more challenging for the family care givers than the patient because they are the ones who have to care for the patient every day. Since the condition is characterized by impairment of cognitive function, it means that Alzheimer’s patients have to be under the care of family members constantly. For instance, the author’s family has to take turns to look after their mother. They have to bathe her and put her to bed, and this can affect their social and working life. Her son also has to shave her, something that he fondling remembers her doing when he was the same age as his son is now, but which she can no longer do (Norton & Waldman, 2011). Because an Alzheimer’s patient has no memory of such things, she may not be really bothered that she is not able to do them now but the care giving family does. They cannot help but feel sorry for the patient as he/she is helpless in their absence. In addition, the psychiatric and behavioral changes that accompanies the condition such as psychosis, paranoia, agitation, anxiety, and insomnia means that the patient cannot be left on his/her own and as such, requires total surveillance by the family members. For example, Ignatieff’s mother cannot stop worrying about when her husband will be back. She is also filled with a lot of anxiety, and she paces on the floor as she waits for lunch, for example, to be prepared. Even when she is eating, she does so in a hurry, and this is a concern for her family for they have to keep on wondering why she is in such a hurry. There is also the issue of frequently reported sleep disturbances, and this can interfere with the sleeping patterns of the other family members because they cannot let the patient to remain awake alone.
Another challenge for family members who have to care for an Alzheimer’s disease patient is that of having to experience such emotions as shock, anger, and grief. These emotions can be very painful because family members witness firsthand their loved ones display some behaviors that they could never have thought possible in their wildest dreams. Alzheimer’s may result in considerable change in how an individual acts. For example, Michael Ignatieff’s family have to encounter such major challenges as helping their mother take a bath, shaving her legs, dressing her, and even putting her to bed (Norton & Waldman, 2011). I am sure that when he was growing up, Michael never emerged that one day he would have to shave her mother, or indeed dress her. On her part, the mother is not embarrassed by the fact that she is no longer able to do such things on her own and although her family would gladly do them for her because they love her as their mother anyway, nonetheless, knowing that she was once an independent woman is a disturbing story altogether. The habit of an Alzheimer’s patients having to constantly ask the same questions over and over can be irritating and may even cause anger to family members. They are not aware that they had previously asked such questions but for the family members, the memory is not lost to them. There is also the issue of grief because family members are able to witness firsthand the mental and cognitive ability of a patient getting worse every day. They are thus aware that soon, they might lose their love one but to the patient, they lack such a recollection.
Alzheimer’s disease is a health conditions that results in permanent memory loss. It mostly affects the elderly. The disease is of significance to the public health sector because it affects the health care systems, the health care givers, and family members as well. Besides, managing the condition is also costly. Patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have to undergo a lot of suffering as they gradually lose the ability to take care of themselves. However, I believed that living with Alzheimer’s disease is more challenging to the care giving family compared with the patient. This is because they suffer emotionally due to the fond memories that they shared with their loved ones and they are no longer able to do so. In addition, the family members have to take care of virtually every need of the patient, including bathing and clothing them. They are also constantly fearful that they too could get the disease and suffer a similar fate to that of their loved one.
Goedert, M., & Spillantini, M. G. (2006). A century of Alzheimer’s disease. Science, 314, 777-81.
Grossberg, G. T. (2008). Impact of Rivastigmine on Caregiver Burden Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease in Both Informal Care and Nursing Home Settings. Drugs Aging 2008, 26 (7), 673-584
Norton, S., & Waldman, N. (2011). Canadian Content. Stamford, Mass: Cengage Learning.
Salawu, F. K., Umar, J. T., & Olokoba, A. B. (2011). Alzheimer’s disease: A review of recent developments. Annals of African Medicine, 10(2),73-79.