Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for Families

By Lenore S. Powell; Katie Courtice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Physical Challenges of
Alzheimer's Disease

Sometimes the patient with Alzheimer's disease forgets how to care for his own body. We learned how to dress ourselves and brush our teeth and eat our food so long ago that is seems as if we were born knowing how to do these things. Yet anyone who has toilet-trained a child, or watched him aim the spoon for his mouth and land it squarely on his ear, knows that all these behaviors, "activities of daily living," are learned. After they have been learned, they become autonomous -- until physical damage to the brain causes the memory of that learned behavior to be partially or totally lost. If your loved one has lost some of these memories, you may find yourself once again patiently demonstrating the simplest tasks of everyday care. There may be moments when your sense of privacy, and your patient's, recoils at the necessity of helping him with bathroom habits and other personal tasks that we have been taught not to share. Yet, if we are aware of our own uncomfortable feelings and are able to discharge them or work them out, we can care for the physical aspects of a patient's needs in the same way we might care for a young and innocent child or a dear friend who is ill. In giving these needed physical services, we have the opportunity to show the patient with gestures and gentle words that he is loved and cared about.

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