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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

LeBlanc: The blame game

Common Sense Caregiving


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A strong sense of denial is a common symptom of dementia. This characteristic seems to affect everyone closest to the patient.

As human beings, we tend to use denial as a protective mechanism. It reminds me of the English metaphor of an elephant in the room; if we don't acknowledge it, it's simply not there.

I frequently hear family caregivers describing how their doctor is not helping, the assisted-living facility is not doing its job and the medication is useless. Well, in many cases these complaints may be true. But the thing they seem to blame the least is that elephant standing right next to them; the disease itself!

It is excruciating to watch a loved one deteriorate. I know; I've been there. This might be where that antagonistic foe of denial can become even stronger. You no longer are arguing the point that they have the disease; instead, you are now fooling yourself into believing that they are somehow going to beat it! With this mindset you will begin to blame the progression of the disease on everyone and everything around you, forgetting that this is, indeed, a fatal disease and there is nothing you can do to stop it. In fact, as caregivers become more and more anxious, their loved ones' anxiety levels rise as well.

Another problem with caring for the terminally ill is that we feel desperate to help them and become willing to try just about anything. This need to fix things is part of the better angels of our human nature; but no matter how noble, it is still not a surrogate.

I've said this many times, but it's worth repeating: "Hope is a powerful emotion, but false hope can be devastating."

When there is even the hint of a press release regarding a new study or the onset of a fresh clinical trial, before reading the fine print, people literally run to their pharmacy or doctor's office, demanding whatever substance that was mentioned.

Let's be very careful; even over-the-counter medicines or supplements can have side effects when ingested along with other medications. Even vitamins can be harmful in high dosages.

Sadly, we still do not have a cure for Alzheimer's and other dementia related diseases. But I believe that every day we are moving a little closer to an answer. For now we have to accept the fact that the disease is winning. Our loved ones are going to deteriorate. So, for now, let's concentrate on what it is that our loved ones still can do and use that to ensure they get the best quality of life possible.

Right now the disease remains undefeated. We must accept that it has won the first match. but we are getting closer to a cure.

So let's put the blame where it truly lies: on the culprit that goes by the name of "Alzheimer's disease." Round two, here we come.

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