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Senior Health Week: Alzheimer's Disease
Health News You Can Use •

Alzheimer News:

Art Is Used as Educational Tool on Challenges Posed by Alzheimer's

Early stage Alzheimer's patients and family members in Houston are learning to draw their experiences, often with dramatic results, in a unique effort to further educate patients, caregivers and healthcare providers on the emotional challenges of the life-altering disease.

The drawings often reflect loss of abilities and memory deterioration, as well as feelings of hopelessness and loss.

"I have used the drawings, with fairly good success, in educating physicians, nurses, and other health care providers about the experience of the Alzheimer's patient," said Dr. Robert E. Reichlin, clinical instructor at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Being a caregiver of an Alzheimer's patient is the most difficult form of caregiving there is," Reichlin said. "Those individuals are more at risk for developing stress-related illnesses, anxiety disorders, or depression than any other care group."

As a result of the disease's progressive attack on verbal communication and abilities to function, caregivers and family members must constantly relearn to communicate with the patient, he said, adding that family members often draw images of long journeys, winding roads or violent roller coaster rides.

Although the subject matter is difficult at best, Reichlin says the sessions remain upbeat.

"There's a lot of laughter in our groups," he said. "It's not somber. We talk about difficult things, but we maintain a therapeutic environment where everyone feels emotionally safe enough to face their illness."

Source: Alzheimer Week of May 12, 2002


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