November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a disease that affects millions of people and families worldwide. Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles sat down with Joan Straus, after reading her book The Alzheimer’s Diary: One Woman’s Experience from Caregiver to Widow.
AA: In your new book, The Alzheimer’s Diary, there is the invaluable chapter: Eight Steps to a Healthy Brain. I’m pleased to say, here at Dempsey & Carroll, our Madeleine leads meditation twice a week. Later, there is a chapter about the importance of early detection. Given that there is no treatment, why would someone want to know? What would be the benefits of an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease?
JS: It is only in the last few years that we have been able to make an early diagnosis and the earlier Alzheimer’s is discovered, the better. The patient can then make lifestyle changes – give up alcohol, check vitamin B and D levels, for example (that might slow the progress of the disease). Early diagnosis also would make it possible for many to take part in clinical trials – a necessary step to finding better treatment and/or a cure. Knowing, one can put one’s life in order, not just make out a living will, but say the things to loved ones that need to be said. When I moved to New York, 34 years ago, my husband introduced me to Dempsey & Carroll, where he, and his mother were customers. In German, straus means Ostrich, so the Straus family have an ostrich as their signature. If I was diagnosed with AD, I would write to all my grandchildren on that beautiful stationery, to tell them how much I loved them and to remind them that long before the internet, there was a graceful elegant way to correspond with each other.
AA: Do you have any words of advice for families and caregivers with loved ones recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
JS: There is a sharp learning curve for family members and caregivers, as they must take over all the responsibilities of the patient’s life, as well as learn about the stages of the disease and how to meet the challenges that come with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Nancy Reagan described caring for someone with Alzheimer’s as “the long goodbye”. It is that, but there can also be great beauty in the duty.
To purchase Joan’s book please click here. 100% of proceeds from the sales of this book go to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.