Instinctively when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the family immediately starts looking for ways to heal their loved one. Understandably, they grasp onto any thread of hope they can find. And there is no shortage of misguided hope out there.
Everywhere you look you see ways to fix Alzheimer’s
How can a distraught family ignore these solutions when media giants write articles touting a cure only to use disclaimers such as “may help” constantly throughout the article? Who the heck cares what may help. Things that used to kill us, eggs and coffee for example, are now good for us. Nobody knows. The hype plays on our emotions – our need to save our loved one.
Dementia isn’t the only place where companies exploit our emotions. I’ve witnessed this with a person dying from liver damage, someone dying from cancer, and people go through it with dying pets; you hear about this miracle herb that cleanses the body and worked for someone’s brother’s friend’s wife’s mom’s cat. How come we never actually meet these people?
Related TinT Resource:
Alzheimer’s Disease: Prevention
Hype plays on a caregiver’s emotions
Our emotions make us vulnerable. Bad people and big business know this so they exploit us with their miracle cures, and the media spreads the hype to attract viewers or readership.
Unfortunately, once a person (or pet ) has been diagnosed with a terminal illness – it’s too late. Ok, sure we hear about the cancer survivor that had only 6 months to live 10 years ago and just ran a marathon but we have never heard about the Alzheimer’s patient that beat the odds and survived; not yet, anyway.
Hurry to eat curry to stave off Alzheimer’s
I hear it all the time. For instance, somebody has read an article about how curry has been identified to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Hmm (I’m making my skeptic face). This herb is a main ingredient in the diet of this small village in some remote part of India.
Ok, two points: first, if the herb has this potential, don’t you think it likely needs to be a regular part of our diet from a young age? Do we think we can go home and sprinkle a ton of this stuff on our meals and catch up? I don’t think so.
Second, isn’t it very likely that other environmental factors may be the secret? Maybe it’s because these people don’t have TVs and maids, so they don’t sit around on their butts all day. They work hard – pumping valuable oxygen through the capillaries of the brain; feeding their cells which keep their brains healthier.
There are no miracle cures
Of course you are still going to purchase that special herb or drug, and you are going to get your loved one into a clinical trial, but unfortunately, much, if not all, of this hope is bogus. I’m not saying clinical trials aren’t good (they are extremely important when conducted properly) but I do believe they give false hope. Like cancer and HIV, Alzheimer’s is much too complicated for a simple solution. Gosh, how many times have we heard that we had beaten cancer and HIV?
Related TinT Article:
Preventing Alzheimer’s Beyond a Heart-healthy Regimen
Everything in life eventually wears down
I’m sure somewhere there is some scientific formula that proves this. Cars break down. Hearts break down. Knees break down. When these thing break, what do we do? We swap parts to keep them going.
Now a days, we swap the entire heart or knee. But you can’t do that (at least not yet) with the human brain. After all, how are you going to transfer all of the memories – it’s not like the brain is comprised of 1’s and 0’s.
Let’s be honest, we all know the answer: Like a car, the best way to get additional miles from our bodies is through proper use and maintenance. But even with regular oil changes and proper driving, the motor is still eventually going to wear out. You need to accept this fact so that you can get on with adapting to the disease.
Stop looking for a miracle now
Let the other 15M U.S. caregivers spend their time searching. Let the researchers spend millions.
I realize this is all a bit of a downer, but acceptance that there is no cure is a major hurdle that you must overcome. The longer you delay, the more time will be lost that you could have spent enriching the life of your loved one.
And while we may not be able to cure the disease, I do believe the progression can be slowed, in some people, when there is ongoing engagement with the individual.
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Do you agree or disagree with what I’m saying? Please share your viewpoint by commenting below.
Feature image (Cans of Hype) by Pnut10 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Wow Mike, this is a “rip the bandaid off” kind of truth that needs to be said over and over again. Getting to this level of acceptance can be a process (Kubler-Ross?) but you are absolutely right- the sooner people accept the reality of cognitive decline due to neurodegeneration, the sooner they can start ignoring misleading information. I completely agree with you.
Mike Good says
There is a fine line between having hope and chasing hype. I saw it again this last week, a top day-time “doctor” saying “do this and prevent Alzheimer’s – just buy my colleague’s book.” I fear that as more snake-oil doctors discover this vulnerable market, they too will delay the caregiver’s ability to get through the 5 stages of grief identified by Kubler-Ross (I had to look it up : ) ) For future readers, according to Wikipedia, “The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.”
Sally M Ericksen says
Not to put too fine a point on this, those stages of grief generally apply to a cognitively sound person when given the news their disease is fatal. The grief stages don’t apply to their loved ones. I researched this when dealing with the death of a grandson. I was concerned that I wasn’t grieving appropriately.
With regards to accepting the dementia diagnosis in a loved one, it’s probably normal to search for cures/treatments/hope. I agree this is an exercise in futility exacerbated by others telling you what could/should be done. It’s a “blame the victim” mentality that hurts the caregivers when comfort is needed.
Mike Good says
Sally, I’m sorry for you loss and I’m happy you found the strength to cope. Since an Alzheimer’s caregiver grieves throughout the entire process, they actually go through the stages over and over. It’s emotionally draining on them. But once they do accept, then they start to provide a higher level of care for the person with dementia. I also agree that it’s normal to search for a fix. We have to have hope. I’m sure if I’m put in a similar situation, I too will search for the miracle herb. It’s who we are. Thank you for sharing – mike.
Sally Seymour says
Interesting article. I don’t think there is anything wrong with hope if individuals’ are realistic. We are not all delusional. It is not necessarily hope that there is a cure (even though we all wish for that!) but hope can be applied to many different situations. In my case, hope that the clinical trial will slow things down enough for my father to stay as he is for longer, for my children to remember their Grandfather with affection and maybe ‘hopefully’ he will pass away one day, not of this awful disease but ‘something else’. That said, I am not expecting this to be the case as I am realistic, but I think a lot can be said for putting ones energies into being positive. What else can we do?
Mike Good says
I agree Sally we must maintain hope. It sounds like you are in the right place regarding acceptance of the disease and having positive energy. I wish you and your family the best.