The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Though many people have loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, or have watched as loved ones died from the disease, only those who have firsthand experience of the condition really know what it is like to live with it on a daily basis.
Recently, thanks to early detection and treatment, adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are able to proactively make decisions about their current and future care needs. Newly diagnosed adults are also able to give medical professionals, family members, and friends a glimpse into what it feels like to live with cognitive decline. Here at The Arbor Company, we have even been able to work with our residents who are living through the early stages of the disease to write “Living Well with Dementia,” a resource designed for those who are newly diagnosed with it.
Learning more about life with Alzheimer’s is crucial not only for research purposes, but also for building empathy. Both professional and family caregivers can become better at their caregiving roles by hearing a firsthand account of dementia from someone who is living with it. Professional caregivers often read books such as “Still Alice” or “On Vanishing” during dementia-specific training, but these books still lack the personal experience of someone who is navigating cognitive loss.
Eugenia Zukerman Offers Perspective
Fortunately, the senior living industry now has a new opportunity to read about what it feels like to live with cognitive decline thanks to Eugenia Zukerman’s “Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir.” Published late last year, Zukerman’s verse offers a firsthand account of the feelings surrounding daily life with Alzheimer’s disease.
Eugenia Zukerman spent her professional career as a flutist and music director and has always used music as a way to express herself. She was organized, detail oriented, and creative. As she retired and grew older, she began noticing some concerning lapses in memory and judgment. She found herself misplacing documents, feeling confused, and being unable to find the words she was searching for. Zukerman was concerned and so was her family.
However, though Eugenia’s daughters pressed her to visit her physician, Zukerman wasn’t sure. After all, Zukerman’s mother lived to be 103 and didn’t have any memory issues at all. Finally, at the nudging of her family members, Zukerman visited her physician and received cognitive testing in order to determine a diagnosis.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease followed her exams, and Zukerman was suddenly faced with a brand-new reality. She knew that she wanted to navigate her diagnosis with grace and privacy, but she also found herself drawn to writing. Each morning, Zukerman would write about her experience, typically in lyrical verse. It wasn’t long before she realized she was writing a book.
If Your Loved One Receives a Diagnosis
Adults throughout the world are receiving dementia diagnoses at an alarming rate. However, each new early diagnosis means the newly diagnosed can better communicate with their loved ones and be an active part of their future care. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you can become a better advocate by learning about their experience and about the experiences of others. Reading books like Eugenia Zukerman’s “Like Falling Through a Cloud” can help you to better understand what your loved one is going through.
You can also find support through resources in any of The Arbor Company’s memory care neighborhoods. For more than 30 years, we have been dedicated to developing the best memory care experience for residents living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.