I’m Still Here

I’m Still Here is the name of a book by John Zeisel. I’ve twice written about the book and author, but what brings them to mind again is a recent article in The New York Times: Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate. Posted on the last day of 2010, the article seems a fitting way to close out the “old way” of looking at Alzheimer’s care and ushering in a “new way”, more in line with Zeisel’s approach.

This “new” approach, which seems so common sense based, strives to bring out the best in Alzheimer’s patients by nurturing their desires, likes and personalities. This approach guides how caretakers at Beatitudes manage the care of their Alzheimer’s residents, and the results have been formidable. There are other care facilities, both in the States and in Europe, as well as research programs, that implement similar approaches.

In all cases, the results show that the lives of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are measurably improved when they are cared for with their (the patient’s) best interests at heart. This translates to finding out more about the individual and assisting the individual in being more themselves – the person they were before the illness attacked. Furthermore, it turns out that most of the drugs for behavior modification and control can be stopped because patients become calm when they are able to revisit portions of themselves. This then allows doctors to hone in on treating depression, which often besets dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

If you know of anyone who has a relative with dementia or Alzheimer’s, I urge you to share the Times article with them, as well as Zeisel’s book. What a way to truly start a “new year”!

Postscript – Apropos of one of the comments on this post, the January 13, 2011 New York Times contains the article China, in a Shift, Takes On Its Alzheimer’s Problem.

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6 thoughts on “I’m Still Here

  1. ~ T ~

    By the way ~ I checked out your other blog about yoga and I like that too. I wanted to comment there and ask questions, but I couldn’t ‘log in’ to do so. I’d rather not log in through facebook, and I don’t have twitter or posterous. I love yoga too, although with two young kids it’s been a while I had taken a good one. I read that you teach “kids”. Yoga for children? My latest fantasy about what I wanna be once the kids are older (among many other fantasies) is a body trainer/physical trainer for children. So, I was interested about your yoga instructions, of course.

  2. ~ T ~

    Hi again ~ thank you for your comments. I had to think about Altzheimer’s in Central Asia a little. Honestly, I am not aware of how much of the population is influenced by it, or do not recall anyone having it. I am sure it happens here and there, but I do not think they are medically treated well. In fact, so many of the elderly are taken care of at home with their families. I’ve almost never heard of an elderly person dying in the hospital, like I usually do in the US. I certainly wish that there was a better medical care in Central Asia in general, but I do appreciate how people care about their elderly and take care of them at home. (although with some medical care, the elderly would live longer). When I heard of assisted-living areas in the US, I remember feeling sick. However, at that time I did not understand the fact that in the people simply couldn’t afford the time and the money to take care of their elderly at home. This, of course, leads to the great debate about the medical care in the US. As your son could tell you, I think there is a better system in Europe about taking care of not only the elderly but in general everyone. Hopefully, things will change for the better there too. And I’m sure it will, because there are so many great things about America and the Americans.

  3. synapsesensations Post author

    T – Your comment is inspirational, and I thank you heartily for sharing it. Please, if you have time, come back and tell about how elderly who wind up with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s are treated in your home country. Please share about different approaches, which sound like they are more humane.

    On another note, I popped over to your blog and see that you live in Belgium. That got me smiling, because our older son also lives in Belgium!

    Regards, Laurie

  4. ~ T ~

    Hello, I just ran into your blog and am already enjoying so much of it. Reading this post, for example gives me a good view into the books, articles and DVDs you mentioned. I agree with what the book and the article seems to say (from what you wrote). I was born and raised in Central Asia and the way we look at our elderly is different than the way in the US. I studied in the US and am married to a US citizen, and I often run into many different clashes about social behaviors in general. The reason why I am bringing this up is because in the US, often times, it seems that once people (especially when they are older) get diagnosed with something, such as Alzheimer’s, people tend to forget about who those people really are. They just become people with Alzheimer’s and the connotation is that they are forgetful and not themselves anymore. I totally disagree with and therefore support any kinds of treatments that has to do with reminding people of who they are. Even normal people often forget about their own selfs, their own abilities, and their own strengths. A human being is always capable of amazing changes in themselves in good and bad times. They just need the right treatment of care, love and respect.

  5. synapsesensations Post author

    Julia,
    Thanks for your post and for highlighting the DVD. I have not seen the film and am heading now to see if it is available on netflix.
    Regards,
    Laurie

  6. Julia

    Great blog post!
    tHave also read “I’m Still Here” and agree with you – everyone should read this. There is also a documentary called “I Remember Better When I Paint” about treating Alzheimer’s through the creative arts. We got it on DVD on amazon after reading an article about it. The film is a wonderful companion to Zeisel’s book, and it turns out that he is also one of the people interviewed in the film. Really inspiring and I also think everyone should see this film.

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