beyond the video

Alzheimer's Inside Out:
Coping with the Disease

Those with Alzheimer's talk about how they cope with the disease in their daily lives.

Video summary
In the brief excerpts shown in this video, five people with Alzheimer's disease briefly describe ways they have found for coping with their condition. These include:

  • Staying busy
  • Creating routines
  • Ignoring the future/refusing to dwell on the negatives
  • Sharing their feelings with others
  • Making the best of it
  • Leaving a legacy

Points to think about
People cope with devastating diseases in varied ways and people with Alzheimer's disease are no exception. James Anthony wrote in Perspectives, a newsletter for people with AD and partially written by them, "Remarkably, a number of us with Alzheimer's are chipper. I'm not sure why. My guess is that having forgotten the heavy news, we decide we will make the most of being with friends and family, and of doing things we love to do."

As everyone in these video excerpts attested, there can still be a great deal of laughter and joy after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, and it should be encouraged. People with AD may not be able to get the point of an elaborate joke as the disease progresses, but they can still enjoy the company of friends, the antics of a kitten, a baby's smile, a sunset, music, a well-loved poem, the pleasure of a walk in a park...

Precisely what is enjoyable varies among individuals. Lettie spends most of her days alone, and says she enjoys "arranging things." Men might call this "puttering," and find it equally satisfying. Katherine, on the other hand, derives pleasure form the social interactions with others at the day care center she attends. Jan, like many people with AD, finds comfort in days that follow a set routine. You likely know what pleases the person you are caring for. Help it happen.

While Ruth says she copes best by ignoring the future, a rosy attitude is impossible for any of us to maintain endlessly. There are times people with AD need a non-judgmental listener to whom they can vent when they are feeling down. Simply being present is one of the best gifts you can give.

Lettie also shares a common feeling when she says she wants to be remembered for her strengths, for being a good person. Not everyone can write individual letters to grandchildren as Lettie did, but perhaps you can be the scribe for a dictated letter or play the role of interviewer for a video legacy. Help the person you love with AD live well and live on.

Adapted from: Alzheimer's Disease: Inside Looking Out; Cleveland Area Chapter of Alzheimer's Assn.,
Cleveland, OH & Early Onset Memory Loss: A Conversation with Lettie Tennis; Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

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Beyond the Video

"One thing that inspires me is my family and friends... it makes me feel good that they are my little cheerleaders."