A Memoir from Inside Alzheimer's Disease
"I am writing this blog to dispel some of the fear and embarrassment that surrounds Alzheimer's."
David Hilfiker is a 68-year-old retired physician who lives in Washington DC with his wife. In September 2012, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He talks about the onset of his symptoms and diagnosis, his fears, and his coming to acceptance in a speech that he made at a medical conference: My Alzheimer's.
He also keeps a blog entitled Watching the Lights Go Out which, despite the gloomy title, is actually a very rich journey filled with honesty, love, and hope. Here is his description of his intent:
"This blog is the story of my day-to-day life with this illness and my reflections upon it. We tend to be scared of Alzheimer's or embarrassed by it. We see it as the end of life rather than a phase of life with all its attendant opportunities for growth, learning, and relationships. We see only the suffering and miss the joy. We experience only the disappearing cognitive abilities and ignore the beautiful things that can appear.
I will not sugarcoat my experiences, however. I wish I did not have Alzheimer's and would sacrifice a lot to be rid of it. But that's not one of the possibilities. So I will welcome this period of my life. Paradoxically it has so far been one of the happiest periods in my life."
Having been a doctor, he is an informed observer of his own condition. If you or someone you love suffers from Alzheimer's disease, his observations and thoughts might be helpful and inspirational. Viewing his illness as another phase of life to be experienced is a refreshing approach.
Can Alzheimer's Disease be prevented?
What if you or a loved one are experiencing some cognitive decline as you age? Well, some forgetfulness is par for the course. Our prior post Normal aging or dementia - how can you distinguish? talks about this issue and offers some articles and tools for learning more about both aging and Alzheimer's.
One thing is certain: Don't rely on online diagnostic tests, which are very unreliable. If you are concerned, visit your physician -- early detection can be beneficial - medications may be available to ameliorate symptoms, or there may be an opportunity to participate in clinical trials.Plus, it can be empowering to participate in planning family matters and later care options should the need arise.
Recent studies say that eating healthy and exercising both mind and body are the best preventative measures one can take. Some studies also suggest that keeping cognitively engaged through work and social activities can "help stave off degenerative disease." AARP suggest some best practices to Age Proof Your Brain. We all age so there's nos stopping that. And like it or not, we will all one day die of something -- but how we live until that point and choices that we make can determine the quality of those years.
Caregivers: If you are or know a caregiver you may find this post on Caregiver Resources helpful.
ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.