Is Alzheimer’s a death sentence?

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My Thoughts Right Now, May 11 Alzheimers Reading Room.

The article attached above is from a blog diary kept by Dotty’s son, Bob DeMarco, from the inception of Dotty’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to the end, which is very near almost nine years later.

My Dad and I on a picnic, Spring 2005.

Dementia care is a very high station in life.  That’s what Bob DeMarco believes, and so do I.  Dementia caregiving is one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face and not everyone excels at that task.  Bob has indeed excelled and there are many of you for which the same can be said.  I sincerely believe if you can get through that journey, you can handle just about anything life can throw at you.  My caregiving journey with my father ended in 2007, so I am speaking from experience, not just with an educated opinion.

Is Alzheimer’s an automatic death sentence?  Many in the medical community, including the Alzheimer’s Association, will declare that indeed it is a death sentence.  I think one of the reasons why so many believe that to be the case is that at this point, there is no cure.  There are no thoroughly effective medications or treatments that cure it or stop it in its tracks.  A person gets an infection?  A regimen of antibiotics is prescribed and poof – the infection goes away.  Someone is diagnosed with a particular cancer – a treatment regimen is prescribed and as a result many cancer patients become former cancer patients.  Not so with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

There’s no such thing as a “former Alzheimer’s patient.”  At this point, the only former Alzheimer’s patients are those who have passed on.  If I interpret correctly what Bob DeMarco said in the above attached article I think he may be saying that if you start your Alzheimer’s/dementia journey convinced that the disease is a death sentence,those involved, especially the caregiver, might not work nearly hard enough to make the patient’s remaining life one that can be called a dignified, quality life.

“Surviving” a disease takes on an entirely new meaning.  It sounds as though Bob set out to make sure that his mother, Dotty, had a quality of life that she was able to live for an extended period of time.  For that reason he can confidently say the following: “We did survive.  We are survivors.”

Well done Bob and Dotty.  You are beautiful examples of how to be a survivor when the odds are stacked up against you.

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