November is here, a time to honor and remember those with Alzheimer’s disease and their care givers. This disease affects 5.4 million Americans, and a new case is diagnosed every 69 seconds. For every person with the disease, there are 2 to 3 care givers, and a cure may be a decade away.
So where’s the hope? I am here to tell you that it lies within each and every person suffering from the disease. The hope is in the heart.
Person-centered care, care that focuses on the person with the disease more than the disease itself, helps to unlock hidden treasures of the self that may be undiscovered or unexpressed due to the affliction.
Reminiscence, especially when coupled with expressive arts therapies (music, art, dance, poetry, drama, etc.) helps to validate the person in their “now,” not just remember how things were prior to the diagnosis. And if we use all our senses to look deeply within, we can dip into the rich colors of the self and paint a life story on the canvas of the present. In so doing, our lives are enriched, and the person with the disease is given dignity. And we, as care givers, can be inspired to continue the race…all because we cared enough to look within.
This November, and in the coming months, let’s look within persons with Alzheimer’s disease for treasures unseen. And then, let’s lift high the banner of hope and personhood for all to see.
Daniel C. Potts, M.D. President, Cognitive Dynamics Foundation