Still Alice : A Short Heartbreaking Journey to Dementia
This was a book I read recently. Telling about the life of a 50 yo psychology professor at Harvard who diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Lisa Genova was briliantly success to move the reader, how hard it would be if we have a family member who suffer from this disease.
Suddenly, she forgot what see’s going to say in a speech at the conference, a subject that she knew very well. Then she got lost when running at campus where she worked. She forgot people who she just met. Forgot a recipe that she used to make every christmast. Disoriented in her own house, which made her peeing her pants because she couldn’t find the bathroom. It sounds horrible. Until one day, she made a reminder, when she’s not able to answer certain questions, she would like herself to swallow a whole bottle of sleeping pills………
According to wikipedia, this chronic neurodegenerative disease usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. On the early stage, AD sufferer often find difficulties remembering recent events (short-term memory loss). Time over time, they might also have language problems, disorientation (getting lost even in a familiar place), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and any other behavioural issues. People with AD often withdraw from society and even family as they sense their declining condition. This disease is very dangerous, because when the body fuctions cannot work properly, like losing balance, it can lead to death.
AD often begins in people older than 65 yo, and there are 4%-5% people with early-onset cases begins earlier than 65. The lost of coordination and balance can cause death. In 2010, dementia resulted in about 486,000 deaths. This disease is also the most expensive one in the developed countries. The novel said, a cost for one day care center is around $ 200!!
Pictures above illustrates comparison between a normal aged-brain to a brain with AD. Patient is characterised by loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions. It has been identified as a protein misfolding disease (proteopathy), caused by plaque accumulation of abnormally folded amyloid beta protein, and tau protein in the brain. Plaques are made up of small peptides, 39–43 amino acids in length, called amyloid beta (Aβ).
How to deal with family member who gets this disease? Yes, it is heartbreaking if we imagine that the our beloved people starts forgetting us, forgetting their spouse, children, and everything. But as Lisa’s book, the family should be understanding, supporting, and never being tired of reminding, and yes a looot of patience. I personally want to thank Lisa Genova for this beautiful book, which opened my eyes for this disease. We talked a lot about cancer, but we casually forgot there’s a torturing disease which still cannot be cured. A disease that makes us lost the one we love even before they passed away…