Don't let Alzheimer's define a person

Publish Date:

Saturday, August 15, 2015 5:07 pm EDT

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Daily Herald

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"Do not let Alzheimer's be how you define a person," advises Angela Lunde, the Mayo Clinic's health education outreach coordinator.

Looking deeper and finding the person beyond the disease, enables caregivers to help patients continue living a productive life.

"I know a woman, a former secretary, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease," said Sarah Bradford, associate director of operations, Chicago area, Sunrise Senior Living.

"We (the care team) decided to keep her engaged in an activity that made her feel purposeful. She now helps with filing and deskwork. This brings a sense of meaning and purpose in her life and helps to fulfill her basic human need of feeling loved and wanted."

Two of the biggest components of increasing decline is isolation and lack of engagement. So, one of our real priorities is that individuals with memory loss have plenty of opportunities to stay engaged, said Eric Portnoff, regional director of memory care and programming for Sunrise Senior Living.

Sunrise has facilities in Barrington, Bloomingdale, Buffalo Grove, Crystal Lake, Gurnee and Schaumburg, as well as other Chicago-area locations. Portnoff said they have community service projects that connect people to the outside community and effect positive change.

"It is important that the individual realizes his life still has meaning, and is important," he said.

Increasingly, patients and caregivers are coming to the conclusion that no one should be defined by the disease they are facing.

"That is part of the mission of our health care teams, to see something deeper -- to show people that we can all look deeper and realize that gifts of wisdom, love and compassion cannot be taken away by a disease," Portnoff said.

• Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson is the media spokesman for Christian Science in Illinois, who writes on the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, and trends in that field. You can contact him at illinois@compub.org.

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