In reading an article this past weekend about Alzheimer's, a phrase came up that jumped up at me. The article states that the disease effects entire families. Alzheimer's is not just a diagnosis of the individual with the disorder. It is a diagnosis for the whole family.
When the individual is married or in a committed relationship, the spouse is suddenly faced with a decision to become a care provider directly to the individual who has been diagnosed or to help arrange for (an)other care provider(s). If the diagnosed individual has children, they may become the care providers. If the individual has young on-set Alzheimer's, the children may not even be old enough to care for themselves, still requiring parenting. Easily, three generations of a family are immediately impacted and that ripples out to later generations as well. Parents, siblings and children have not only the potential tasks of caring for the diagnosed individual. They may have the concern of their own risk for Alzheimer's or another disorder leading to dementia. For example, if a relation to the diagnosed individual has diabetes, the risk for Alzheimer's is a bit higher in that individual.
Fortunately, the diagnosis does not have to mean a death knell for the family. The diagnosed individual is facing a terminal disease as are many cancer patients. As with cancer patients, this can inspire family members to acts of advocacy and education, to take preventative measures, to seek early diagnosis and treatment. It is not an easy road we face when such a diagnosis hits our family. However, beauty can still arise from it.
No matter how dementia is impacting your family, let's make today beautiful.