Thursday, November 02, 2006

Alzheimer's -- The Journey

Every now and then something I read has such a profound effect on me that I feel a need to share it. Although I missed the piece written in the Times, while out in the blogosphere this morning I came across this touching article, "Self-Portraits Chronicle a Descent Into Alzheimer’s."

Upon his discovery that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, an American artist, William Utermohlen, did what he knew best. He painted self portraits that clearly show the deterioration he experienced as the disease progressed, forcing him ever deeper into dementia. These poignant paintings were exhibited at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan, by the Alzheimer’s Association.

In the early stages of the disease the most obvious symptom is short term memory loss, which can be attributed to so many other things -- absent mindedness or simple forgetfulness. But a more pervasive loss of short term memory follows, with an eventual inability to complete even the most familiar tasks, along with disorientation and often behavioral changes. The average duration of the disease is 7-10 years during which both patient and loved ones watch as the person they knew slips into a nether world from which they cannot escape.

Stages and symptoms

Mild — At the early stage of the disease, patients have a tendency to become less energetic or spontaneous, though changes in their behaviour often goes unnoticed even by the patients' immediate family.
Moderate — As the disease progresses to the middle stage, the patient might still be able to perform tasks independently, but may need assistance with more complicated activities.
Severe — As the disease progresses from the middle to late stage, the patient will undoubtedly not be able to perform even the simplest of tasks on their own and will need constant supervision. They may even lose the ability to walk or eat without assistance.

If you think someone in your life might be headed down this road, here are some resources:

http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/society/intro.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimers
http://www.healingwell.com/alzheimers/
http://www.alzheimersdisease.com/index.jsp
http://www.ahaf.org/alzdis/about/adabout.htm

And just remember you're not alone in this fight.

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