Alzheimer’s Disease is a deteriorating brain affliction that attacks the memory, judgment, personality and communication functions. It offers no hope and there is no cure, only the knowledge that it will be a slow decline into forgetfulness and incapability. For the individual, this is obviously a frightening time: they do not remember where they are, what they are doing or who are these strangers that surround them, even though those strangers are their family and friends, the loved ones that they’ve cherished their entire life. As they slip further into disorientation and confusion and as they frequently forget that they even had a family, their relatives remain painfully aware of the situation. They experience a long emotional and physical journey on which they undergo the psychological distress of watching a loved one slip away; they experience grief from the first diagnosis and from when the first grandchild is forgotten; guilt as they fear they are abandoning the sufferer by putting them into care and when they realise that they have become the parent; anger and frustration when the sufferer won’t co-operate with them anymore and ultimately distress as they have lost the support and love of someone so important to them.
Alzheimer’s Disease affects every member of the family: they must all confront this without choice, it is ‘the family disease’ and yet the family is hardly given any support, solace or even recognition. When we talk about Alzheimer’s Disease, we speak not only of the patient but of the family: the hidden patient. Over 600,000 people in England alone suffer from some form of dementia: that’s a vast quantity of families who need support or even acknowledgement.
The stories that follow offer a glimpse of the trials these three families must face. The compassion they have; the dedication they had; the love they lost; the sadness they face; the pain and the brief moments of recollection they share. It aims to provide information and understanding, to provoke in the reader some compassion and empathy. But most of all it aims to inspire the reader to appreciate, respect and love their own family.
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