Overcoming Difficulties and Aging

We must realize that the comfort and well-being of an afflicted person can be improved even when a progressive disease process does exist. Environments can be adapted to allow for a measure of independence together with safety.

Instead of isolation, the person with a brain disease can be given the opportunity of continued social contact in a warm and friendly setting. I have personally seen women diagnosed with dementia, work confidently and competently in a kitchen provided for their use.

Research has demonstrated, time and again, improvements in mental and physical functioning when the confused aged are moved to a socially enriched environment. Damaged brain cells have not been repaired, but the individual becomes motivated to make better use of his/her remaining functions.

Good nutrition and a judicious use of medication and exercise can also dramatically improve the condition of those with dementia. There is great satisfaction in seeing serenity, dignity, and self-esteem return to an old man or woman who has been treated with respect. We may find ourselves with a person whose strong character or gentle radiance remains intact despite the ravages of illness.

We must also understand the continual effort of a jeopardized and stressed old person to cope with his difficulties and to make the best he can of a situation.

He may confabulate (i.e.: a filling in of gaps in memory by fabrication) by reporting incidents that never happened. This in itself is a creative though impaired action. It is an attempt to compensate for the gaps “carved” in a failing memory.

A question yet to be answered: is she not paying attention to what is happening in the room? Perhaps she is deeply engrossed in events taking place within her own mind and body. There are problems to be met or resources to be salvaged out of the normal range, but hers. Even when senile type behavior appears quite bizarre and ineffective, it often has the same goals as our own behavior (i.e.: to understand, to relieve anxiety, to feel like a person.).

A final thought that may not pertain specifically to the focus of this article is the triumph of enduring love.

Despite the numerous obstacles faced daily by those with mental and physical limitations, love can triumph for the old as well as for the young. The importance of a sustained and loving relationship in old age is hard to discredit.

Quotable Quote: “Success is nothing more than taking advantage of an issue.”
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