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When a person is diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, they fluctuate between periods of acceptance and denial. They do not want to think or do something about it. Nobody can blame them. They have just been handed a life sentence of doubt. When do they stop recognizing loved ones? How can they cope? They do not want to consider the eventual probability of going to a retirement home. These questions and behaviors are a standard part of understanding and working with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. If everyone touched by this diagnosis – the person who has the disease, family, caregivers – understands these stages, then they can better handle the illness with a feeling of grace and support.
Denial is the 1st stage to accepting Alzheimer’s, just as it is with most life-changing illnesses and conditions. When they first hear the words, they do not want to believe it. They may go for a few weeks by not talking about it. Or they may busy themselves making plans for activities, even if there is a good likelihood that those activities may not occur. This denial is completely normal and should be accepted as a necessary survival mechanism toward reaching acceptance. For many people, this is their way of taking in the news. They need that time to wrap their minds around it while they can. Part of this denial phase is not wanting to tell friends and family about it.
TV shows have perpetuated a stereotype of Alzheimer’s patients as being simple-minded, violent, or extremely aggressive in behavior. These stereotypes can taint peoples’s perceptions about the disease. The difficulty with stereotypes is they don’t fit everybody. The stigma of the diagnosis also weighs in. Some acquaintances and family, on hearing the news, may unconsciously push away from the person troubled who has been diagnosed with the disease. Fear of the unknown also plays an element of the denial and acceptance of Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone knows that they are going to die someday, but when the future is clouded with the uncertainty of how they’re even going to be able to sense the world and their place in it, it can cause uneasiness and fear. The fear isn’t that they may eventually die, but that they’re going to completely lose who they are beforehand. Because early diagnosis is of key significance, the progression of Alzheimer’s can take many years if diet and changes in lifestyle are implemented. This time is crucial for adjustment. Taking things one step at a time is a very important part of the acceptance process.
A feeling of losing oneself is critical to appreciate in the diagnosis of the illness. Somebody may once have been the head of a household and now with progressing Alzheimer’s their “position” is influenced. This could lead to a major blow to one’s sense of importance and their self image. They desire things to remain the same, but the actuality of the situation doesn’t afford this to happen. By keeping the person engaged on a day-to-day basis and having a say in thier life will help in keeping that self-dignity for as long as possible.
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