Does Alzheimers Lead to a Loss of Self?

Self is something we talk about in psychotherapeutic circles. What it means to have a self. How strong one’s sense of self is. Often a lack of sense of self brings people into therapy.

Here’s an interesting post from a blog that deals with Alzheimers issues, The Tangled Neuron. Favorite line from the article: “Loss of self is baloney.”

Summary: A new paper shows that many people with dementia lead rich and meaningful lives.

One of the reasons a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has carried such a stigma is the view that having the disease means losing all your memories, and therefore, losing your “self.”

But the idea of losing your sense of self as you lose your memory doesn’t really fit with much of what I’ve observed. Even as my father lost his memories, he kept his sense of humor, his sense of rhythm and melody, and his sense of right and wrong. Even as he lost track of his exact relationship with friends and family, he kept his sense of love for all of us. I would argue that he never lost his sense of self.

“‘Loss of self’ is baloney,” says Don Moyer, voicing an opinion shared by many with mild to moderate dementia. “There is always a self, and there is always a bridge to that self.” Don and his wife Jenny Knauss, who has Alzheimer’s, run Alzheimer’s Spoken Here, a social networking site for people with Alzheimer’s and related diseases. They’ve just finished work on a paper called “Managing disability and enjoying life: How we reframe dementia through personal narratives.” Their co-author is Renee Beard, a geriatric sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Next week…

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