Is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) a hoax? Well, it depends, apparently, on…wait for it…not science, not facts, not critical thinking, but instead which polarized (and patently full of untruths) end of politics you’ve put your faith and trust in.
We’ve lost our minds in this country. You can fact check everything now (including the president) using the brain God gave you and the common sense that all of us should have, but seems to be in extreme short supply anymore, to discern between what’s true and what’s false from an objective, rational, and logical point of view.
But it appears that some people have been sucked into the vortex of ignorance and extremism that seems to be its own kind of pandemic, not only in America, but throughout the world. Continue reading →
We humans are a very gullible bunch. We are also capable of the most incredible leaps of faith in tying the most disparate and thinly-threaded information together while we routinely disbelieve proven facts and credible information backed by proof, analysis, and critical thinking.
Why is that we go to the outermost reaches of implausible information to build our internal knowledgebases on instead of doing real, credible – yes, it takes time, it takes effort, it takes analysis, it takes critical thinking, it takes patience, and it takes commitment – research to understand the various kinds of dementa (Alzheimer’s is just one kind of dementia), to understand what the scientific process – and effects are – and to understand how we as caregivers can love and support our loved ones with honor and dignity?
Going Gentle Into That Good Night is a comprehensive resource for factual, well-researched, and practical information on dementias. The information is free for everybody. Yet routinely I see the most outlandish and untrue information on dementias on social media.
Silver bullet cures (there are no cures). Unproven links to other diseases based on an infinitesimally small test sample (no real scientist or pathologist would hang their careers on samplings this small to announce a finding). Claims that this or that “natural” thing will reverse or improve a brain already neurologically compromised.
It sounds wonderful. But it is misinformation, disinformation, and, in many cases, completely dishonest.
For a lot of these things, the motive is to get us to spend a lot of our hard-earned money on a pipe dream while the people getting rich on our backs are laughing all the way to the bank. For the other things, it is simply a matter of hacks or inferior scientists, doctors, etc. trying to get their 15 minutes of fame.
All at our expense and at the expense of our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease. Not only is there a monetary expense, but there is also an emotional expense, a psychological expense, and a physical expense.
All of these areas can be significantly drained and irreparably damaged in the process.
An example of this insanity in the pre-information age was in the widespread usage of mercury as a cure-all during the 18th and 19th centuries. Mercury, it turns out, is incredibly toxic and rapidly leads to premature death (Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, died an early death from mercury, which was prescribed for her various physical ailments, poisoning).
It is easy to think, “Duh!” now, but the same kind of misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies are even more rampant and accessible today because of technology.
If you want to believe something – even something unproven, outrageous, dead wrong, and possibly life-threatening – the internet offers you the backup and the “proof” you need to justify whatever it is you want to believe.
The internet is full of hacks. It is full of wannabes. It is full of misinformation, disinformation, and lies. About dementias. And about everything else.
Do not believe anything that you cannot prove yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt. Do not trust anything just because it looks like somebody credible (a doctor, perhaps) said it.
I implore you not to check your critical thinking, your BS meter (we all have one, I hope), your logic, your reason, and your common sense at the door when you enter the wild and wacky world of the internet.
Here’s the most important thing to remember. Most disinformation, misinformation, and outright lies have a tiny grain of truth in them. That is always the hook. Always.
However one grain of truth surrounded by countless grains of not truth still makes the information as a whole untrue. Do not fall for the hook because once you do, then you are moving as far and as fast away from the truth as possible.
An example related directly to dementias is the supposition that shows up over and over that Lyme Disease is the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is sensational disinformation and misinformation. A healthy dose of common sense with thoughtful, careful, and diligent research, analysis, and critical thinking would prove or disprove this bombshell claim.
Common sense brings the “5 in 5 brains” into focus. Five brains out of the millions of people who have had and who have some form of dementia is not a credible sampling of the population affected.
I could very easily go out and find five random people who have the same auburn hair that I do and declare that I have turned genetics upside down and found that auburn hair is a dominant trait (it is recessive).
This is common sense and logic and we must bring these to the table when we’re looking at any and all information. Applied to this graphic, we should automatically mistrust this information.
But that’s not enough to prove it wrong. We actually have to go and do some research. This microstudy was done by McDonald in 2006. The opening statement of the abstract tells us key information through which to view McDonald’s microstudy: “Here is hypothesized a truly revolutionary notion…”
A hypothesis is not fact. It is a theory, a guess, an imagination that remains to be proved or disproved. The infographic, then, presents the information as already being proved, which is misinformation.
That the study was done almost 10 years ago also raises the eyebrows of doubt because much has been done in the research and causes of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease in those intervening years.
In fact, with some research on the possible link between Lyme Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, we find a study from 2014 (eight years after McDonald’s microstudy) that definitively repudiates the existence of a link between the two diseases.
To not verify and prove anything and everything is not only lazy, but in many ways, ignorant. Why would we not want to get all the facts instead of trying to support some pet theory that we believe? I don’t understand that.
Too few of us, to our discredit, actually go through this process and that is what I am begging each of you and imploring each of you to do. Know why you know what you know. Know why you believe what you believe. Know why you do what you do.
Never, ever accept anybody else’s word foranything. Prove it. Disprove it. But never just accept it.
Ever. If not for ourselves, for our loved ones. They’ve entrusted their lives to us. We owe it to them to be rigorously honest and apply that everywhere in our lives and to not fall for gimmicks, misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies.
The cost of not doing this is high to everyone.
To us in terms of our character and our credibility (if we perpetuate disinformation, misinformation, and erroneous information, then we are leading people astray and away from the truth).
To our loved ones in terms of their care and their lives (we can cause much harm and much suffering by believing things that are not true and not proven).
A huge part of true love is the continuous hard work it requires us to put into living it, being it, showing it consistently and continually.
This post will discuss the next three most common stressors – communication, vision, and hearing – that our loved ones suffering with these diseases experience and practical, common-sense ways that we as caregivers can recognize them, address them, and minimize or manage them as a source of stress.
It is important to say at the outset that the stressors we’ll be discussing today require some creative solutions taking the guidelines listed here because of the integral link that each of these, standing alone without prior existence (which we’ll also look at) to the development and progression of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, has to each other and to the diminishing functioning of the brain itself.
The first stressor we’ll discuss is communication. Issues with communication are often among the first signs of cognitive impairment with our loved ones and those issues become more pronounced as dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease progress. Common manifestations of early communication problems include:
Extensive searching for words when speaking
Misidentifying common objects (e.g., calling a pen a knife or a boy a dog) both verbally and in writing
Omitting words both verbally and in writing
Speaking and writing sentences or phrases that don’t make sense
Not totally comprehending or misunderstanding what is being heard or read
As the diseases progress, so do the communication problems, often resulting in a total inability to communicate verbally. Losing the ability to read seems to occur after this, but comprehension of what is being read generally precedes the inability to recognize written words.
Losing the ability to communicate – to express oneself in an understandable way, to participate in interactive dialogue, to understand the meaning of words – is frustrating and isolating for our loved ones suffering from dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease (it’s also frustrating and sad for us as caregivers because we so badly want to find a way to open that door wide open again), and the result of that frustration and isolation creates stress in our loved ones.
While we as caregivers may not be able to completely eliminate the stressor of communication, there are things that we can do to minimize the stress associated with it.
In the early stages, we can exercise patience in listening. This is easier said than done, but it is vital because it shows that we are interested in and care about what our loved ones are trying to communicate, instead of cutting them off because they’re taking a long time and faltering, and either completing what we think they’re trying to communicate, often erroneously, or simply dismissing them by interrupting them and saying what we want to say.
Here are a few strategies for keeping the lines of communication open for as long as possible and minimizing the stress associated with it:
Break complex ideas and tasks down into simple, understandable steps that are easy to comprehend and walk through the idea or process one step at a time. Repeating this step-by-step approach using consistent language each time, being a guide for our loved ones with each step, and going through each step at their pace will establish a routine of habits that eliminates much of the stress associated with what is essentially information overload for our loved ones.
Limit the number of options that our loved ones are presented with and make the options concrete. An example of how this would look is instead of asking “What do you want for dinner?,” ask “Do you want baked chicken or roast beef for dinner?”
For those situations where it applies, ask “yes” and “no” questions. (A caveat may be that as dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease progress, “yes” and “no” will get flipped around, so they may become an unreliable way to communicate.)
Use gestures, such as the motions of washing hands, brushing teeth, drinking something, or eating something.
For difficulties finding the right words, often times the easiest thing is to ask our loved ones to point to what they are talking about.
For sentences or phrases that don’t make sense, we should listen for meaningful words or ideas and then take those and ask questions about them to gain understanding into what our loved ones are trying to communicate.
For misunderstandings of what is being heard or read, it’s important for us to stay calm and not get defensive or reprimandingly corrective, because that will escalate our loved ones’ stress in a heartbeat. The easiest way I found to minimize this aspect of communication was to repeat what Mama had said and then ask her why she believed that or thought that. Once I gave her the opportunity to express herself and be heard, then I could find ways to gently steer her toward an accurate understanding and that eliminated both the stress of the immediate situation as well as the stress of the misunderstanding.
In cases where our loved ones are completely nonverbal, stress can be minimized by reading their nonverbal language (discomfort, pain, fatigue, etc. ) and by anticipating their needs (bathroom, food, drink, etc.).
Hearing and vision problems are often stressors for our loved ones suffering with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
We discussed in detail many of the vision problems associated with these diseases in “‘I See Dead People’ – Vision, Perception, and Hallucinations in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementias,” and how those vision problems (and the vision problems normally associated with the aging process) can be proportionately more severe as neurological damage increases, and we discussed ways to eliminate and minimize the stress related to those problems, so I encourage everyone to go back and read that.
Hearing is directly tied to neurological functioning as well, so as dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease progress in our loved ones, even those with normal hearing will experience auditory changes. For our loved ones with impaired hearing already, these changes are often complicated and compounded by the existing hearing loss.
Most auditory changes are in the form of auditory hallucinations – hearing someone who isn’t there – or auditory misperceptions – believing they heard something said that wasn’t said or believing they heard words said a certain way.
This causes stress in our loved ones, mostly because – and neither I nor anyone else explain definitively why this is the case – what they believe they’ve heard is negative, dismissive, rejecting, and abandoning and the fear associated with these possibilities opens their stress flood gates.
This stressor is manifested by our loved ones in the forms of verbal anger and, at times, physical anger, extreme agitation, and extreme restlessness.
The keys to managing this stressor – the best outcome is to minimize it, because since it is the product of fear of losing the most basic of human needs, it’s virtually impossible to avoid or eliminate entirely – lie with us as caregivers.
We must manage our emotions very, very carefully in both our speech and our actions, and this is one of our toughest battles in this journey with our loved ones.
Projecting gentleness, kindness, tenderness, patience, and equanamity at all times, whether we are experiencing any of those at the moment or not, is critical to minimizing this stressor for our loved ones who are suffering from dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The more we can do this consistently, the more reassurance our loved ones will have that nothing negative is coming from us and that we will not dismiss them, we will not reject them, and we will not abandon them and the less fear (i.e., stress) our loved ones will experience.
Here are some guidelines on how to accomplish this:
We respond in a way that lets our loved ones know that we understand they’re concerned or afraid. Examples would be, “I know this is upsetting for you” or “I know this is scary for you.”
We reassure our loved ones that we’re in their corner. Examples would be “I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you,” or “I’ll take care of you.”
We redirect our loved ones’ attention to something else that’s positive, if possible (this sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t always happen in reality – sometimes we just have to stop at reassurance, walk away for a little while, and be sure to come back and try again later, especially if our loved ones are so worked up that there’s no calming them down nor persuading them that we’re the “good guys”).
In our next and last post in this series on stressors for our loved ones suffering from dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease will look at how physical health can be a stressor and how we as caregivers can minimize and eliminate, within certain parameters, the associated stress for our loved ones.