Research has yet to definitively establish the cause (or, more likely, causes) of Alzheimer’s Disease, an ailment plaguing roughly 5.3 million people in America alone. In its later stages, Alzheimer’s does not only disturb patients’ lives, but also weighs heavily on caregivers. Whether a family member; friend; or often, retirement home employee; a caregiver will struggle between keeping a loved one or patient mentally in the present or allowing him to sink back into the past.
WNYC, a New York public radio station, hosts a show called RadioLab (also available via free podcast, to which I highly recommend subscribing). In this particular “short” from RadioLab, the hosts speaks with the director of Benrath Senior Center in Düsseldorf, Germany; the home has taken a unique and controversial approach to dealing with residents’ dementia. You can listen to the clip here:
The conversation raises many questions: Is it fair to lie to the residents? Even if it removes the anxiety and stress of feeling trapped? Should we allow patients to live in their personal reality which often bears little resemblance to actual reality? Could enabling disorientation enhance patient confusion? Do we judge success by patients’ happiness or by their grasp on reality? Is this a realistic method to adopt in other senior care facilities?
Is forgetting, as Lulu Miller says, “both the problem and the solution?”