Life undoubtedly changes once Alzheimer’s takes hold but increased awareness can make a huge difference to everyone concerned. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that causes cognitive impairment in the brain. It affects each individual differently but in all cases, day-to-day functions are impaired.
Tina Leonard, Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs at The Alzheimer Society of Ireland explains the importance of a positive, proactive approach following diagnosis. “People need support from the start and the type of support needs to change as the illness progresses,” she says. She cautions against seeing Alzheimer’s as a catastrophe. “Let’s stop using negative language like living death, and speaking of the person disappearing. It’s important to see a more rounded picture because there are lots of people living well at different stages with dementia, and we want to enable people to do just that.”
Daragh McGlynn, General Manager at Bluebird Care Limerick has experienced the condition as both healthcare provider and son. When he accompanied his father to an examination determining Alzheimer’s, he was surprised to see his professional distance dissipate. “I had always approached Alzheimer’s from a business owner’s perspective. However, sitting there for the first time with someone you love and witnessing simple questions trip him up – that was a massive eye opener for me.”
McGlynn emphasises the importance of paying attention to the details of daily life so that the person with Alzheimer’s is validated and their new reality acknowledged. “I made a decision to parachute into his life, to see what he sees, to do what he does, to get up when he gets up even if that’s in the middle of the night. It was a huge wake-up call.”
Leonard and McGlynn share their experiences in the hope that it will foster an understanding of how Alzheimer’s alters daily life.