As a society, we have witnessed a relentless “medicalization” of Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, partly as a result of the introduction of a number of medications that have some effectiveness in the early (mild to moderate) stages of the disease (http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/TA217 ). A ‘loss of self’ is a common expression or cliché for the process of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the imagination of the press and lay community. In AD, neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-protein plaques develop outside the nerve cells, in the hippocampus area of the brain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus ) and eventually throughout the brain tissue, causing brain cells to die and the brain to become atrophied. In LBD, there are aggregates of protein (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewy_body ) that develop inside the nerve cells. In VD, atherosclerotic narrowing of small arteries in the brain produce strokes, killing portions of the brain. The “loss of the self” is thus cast as a biomedical narrative of abnormal anatomy and progressive damage to brain tissue, a process that “merely” consists of pathology in the brain. This way of speaking or conceptualizing about dementia either inadvertently or deliberately objectifies a person or self as a “brain”. It posits that the person or self is created by and contained in the brain, as if through the activity of the “nerv...
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...person who persists still—an entity who simply is—living on inside our “meat house” of a body, the person’s cognitive losses and non-intending, non-achievingness notwithstanding. The viewer according to this rhetoric would glimpse something enduring about the person despite her disease—adduce her essence in the Divine likeness, and look for evidence of her essential holiness and human wholeness, come what may.
As you read the material contained in this module, you may find it useful to reflect on photos of people you have known who have lived with dementia. You may also find it useful to reflect on how you yourself or others have spoken with those people at various stages of their illness. Taking stock of the existing rhetoric of images and words surrounding dementia provides you a context for understanding and aligning the ideas in the module sections that follow.
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