Alzheimer’s is still the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Current estimates state that Alzheimer’s costs the United States about $172 billion a year. Even more shocking, only 45% of Medicare patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are informed of their diagnosis, according to medical records and Medicare surveys. The reason? Because too many people believe that telling a person that they have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is sentencing them to “a fate worse than death.”
This disregards the fact that people with Alzheimer’s are still people, first and foremost. Having worked with so many of them, I can attest to the fact that people with Alzheimer’s experience the same complicated range of emotions that those without Alzheimer’s experience: love, happiness, pain, anger, relief, and sadness. They think, they feel, they have opinions. Treating these people as less than human, calling their condition “a fate worse than death,” is an abhorrent insult to the real life struggle that people with Alzheimer’s have to endure every day.
Furthermore, not informing people of their Alzheimer’s diagnosis violates the most basic freedom that all human beings are born with: the ability to make decisions for oneself. A person who isn’t told that they’ve been diagnosed Alzheimer’s will still feel the symptoms, still notice the memory loss. Perhaps most importantly, one will be robbed of the necessary time to make plans for oneself, to plot out the direction that one’s life will take when the Alzheimer’s begins to set in more deeply, at which point communication becomes more difficult.
A person with Alzheimer’s deserves the same rights as anyone else. We should never forget that.
More Alzheimer’s Reading:
Alzheimers.net: Why I Wrote a Novel about Alzheimer’s
Headstuff: 10 Surprising Facts about Alzheimer’s
Big Al’s Books & Pals: Guest Post