The shadow of Alzheimer's disease
By: Charles H. Edwards II, MD
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Emily is a youthful woman in her mid-60s. Her short, natural gray hair and ready smile make her look much younger. However, her eyes tell a different story. They convey heartbreak. Her husband, John, is in his third year of mental decline and now has a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. His memory loss and cognitive decline have accelerated, and she has come to the realization that her life is at a tipping point. Any hopes she had of sharing a normal life with the man she adores have been dashed by a tragic disease. She is frightened by the thought that she may not be able to cope with this new reality.
Like many caregivers whose loved ones suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Emily is overwhelmed by her new responsibilities and her fear of the future. Alzheimer’s disease has stolen her happiness and cast a shadow on her life. She needs someone to help her bear the burden of Alzheimer’s disease so she can focus on helping her husband.
Personalized care is a major component of the services given to patients and their families at Novant Health Memory Center. As family members gain knowledge of the disease, they learn to adapt and find these challenging situations to be more tolerable.
As a patient of Novant Health Memory Center, John will go through extensive testing to rule out other treatable causes of dementia. Emily and other family members will have the opportunity to attend the "caregiver college.” This innovative service will give them the chance to meet others experiencing similar lifestyle upheavals, receive in-depth knowledge of the disease itself and, most importantly, learn techniques to help maintain a peaceful home environment.
At Novant Health Memory Center, a major emphasis is placed on the skills and capabilities preserved in the patient, rather than focusing on what is lost. By individualizing the care for each patient, what is still possible in regard to communication and joy emerges, providing the framework for dignity and safety. Techniques that provide safe havens in the home for both patients and caregivers are developed. A deep knowledge of the disease and its many faces provides families with confidence that they will be able to recognize early signs and prevent a crisis or have the resources to address emergencies if they happen. Legal issues are also presented, enabling families to prepare for the inevitable stages of the disease.
Novant Health Memory Center was created to specifically address the needs of patients with dementia and their families. It is our hope that time and attention will alter the course of the disease and keep the shadow of Alzheimer's disease at bay.
Novant Health Memory Center is located at 2801 Randolph Road in Charlotte. To make an appointment, call 704-316-2010.