Alzheimer’s disease is a familiar sight to me. I had a sad experience during my work as a nurse in my country Colombia and Spain with Alzheimer disease patients. Day by day I came to know each patient’s story because every day they were living the moment without remember the last minute. This is also what happened to Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice. The protagonists is a 50 year old woman, a very well organized, efficient, highly-educated, and smart Harvard professor, wife of a successful man, and the mother of three grown children, who has diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
People have learned about the progression of Alice’s disease through her reactions, so feeling what she feels- a slowly building terror, the big changes with her family, professional life, and her identity, but we also have started to understand how Alice finds positive aspects in all this, she started to enjoy more of her family, she also began to take more time for her, about how she can remember the things without help. When a patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the relation between the patient and his/her family suffers big changes.
With Alice, is the negative aspects start when she becomes dependent on her family members and in need of certain care. The impact on Alice’s home is visible in the new habits, routines, roles and functions within the family dynamics. All of her family members suffer as a result of the disease to a lesser or greater extent. Her husband’s life is affected because he has less time to do his work and other activities, as he needs to take care of her. He also loses his patience because Alice behaves out of the ordinary, and that can become annoying in some ways.
An example, when Alice forgets her cell phone at home and he said: “Then duct tape it to your head, I don’t care, I’m not going through this every time you forget you’re supposed to show up somewhere. ” (Genova 99). On the other hand, her children feel anxiety, fear, and rejection with regard what is happening with their mother. All the members of her family in some way want to take care of her. While helping her looks like an obligation, the positive aspect is that Alice has more attention from her husband and children.
She and her husband try to renew their affection to each other. Her husband and children are supporting her at some moments, especially the youngest daughter, who feels love, compassion, and empathy for her mother. The second important aspect of Alice is life that is affected her professional life as an important professor. “Today, I have the honor of introducing you to our first colloquium speaker of the year. Dr. Alice Howland is the eminent William James Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. ” (Genova 9).
In spite of her achievements and all the important and recognized things about her profession, the career is coming to an end. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversation thread, the story line of a book, or to recall information she heard just moment before. She is losing her respect of her students because they cannot trust in someone who is sick. She is unable to do the work because every day she loses the capacity to remember everything she needs to know at the moment. She loses prestige because she cannot represent any more in her life as a professional.
The positive point is that she cannot want to give up all years of work in a second. She wants to be a supported at any moment by any person who needs her. She continues to attend meetings and seminars. She is trying to leave a positive impression on each person who has met her. The third and the most important aspect with Alice and her Alzheimer’s disease is a big change in her identity. At the beginning she is angry and depressed with herself because she is forgetting everything that she needs to remember every day, such as a simple and common word.
Her emotional changes also affect her relationships with others and her own feelings, because she has a negative behavior with others when she yells or says a word of anger. I think is the way how she shows that she is trying to avoid what is happening in her life with an incurable disease that changes the direction of her life. She feels frustration about her memory problems because gradually she has a restriction of freedom that means she loses privacy and independence in each activity she wants to do.
We cannot imagine what she is feeling when she is losing everything she learned, all the way back to basic activities such as the skill to walk, eat, or even use the bathroom. Alice feels frustrated about what she is living, because it is a way to say she is stigmatized with this disease as though she were already dead. On the other hand, and in a positive way, she begins to enjoy her life when she shares more time with her family. She feels curiosity about a future of her children and grandchild, and then she wants to live to enjoy everything, despite she would “be incapable of remembering and executing this kind of plan.
” (Genova 118). She creates a simple test and games to remember simple things of her life, and she can self-administer every day. She also tries to create a support group with people who have the same conditions as her, sharing experiences and to know that she does not alone in all this. This is a story where a woman forgets that have Alzheimer’s disease because she continues to do her life normally, she forgets that the things that she makes normally, now she does not make.
Alice can find in her husband and children some way of support of each one of them, and then she can understand the positive things about her disease. The surprising is how the Alzheimer’s disease can advance very quickly, as affect relationships, families, professional jobs, and the identities of each patient. “Unfortunately, this is a progressive, degenerative disease with no cure. It gets worse, despite any medication we have right now. ” (Genova 245). This is a sad end for each person who had a wonderful and successful life.
In my experience, I only knew and lived with my patients their final phase of the disease. I also admire anyone going through this disease, their family, friends, those who care for them and those who continue to research for this cause. The hope is the patients and the people who live around them can find the positive aspects during the disease, they can enjoy more time together and help each patient try to find a good way to endure their disease. Work Cited Genova, Lisa. Still Alice. New York, London, Toronto, and Sydney: Gallery Books, 2009.
Courtney from Study Moose
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