The family of caregivers of those who are cognitively impaired are our true unsung heroes. Often without respite nor compensation they serve those who have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s can also have a component of early onset but most diagnoses show up as we get older. Research indicates that Americans are more afraid of getting Alzheimer’s disease than they are of dying. As our population ages, there is an ethical aspect to these cognitive illnesses that has been neglected in the United States. In this culture, with its emphasis on hyper-cognitive power and productivity, we can, hopefully, begin to acknowledge the equal moral status of people with physical and cognitive disabilities and not dismiss the consciousness and awareness of an individual with dementia as someone less significant than that of someone who is more lucid of mind. And, we can better support those who support this growing population. This deep dialogue includes the challenges of what Stephen G. Post calls “Deeply Forgetful People” and how we may better meet them. He says, “I’m a true believer in offering dignity and comfort to those in cognitive decline… There are no great drugs out there. Not even good drugs out there for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. However, if you provide people with access to music that relates to their life journey they’re better over the course of the day, they don’t have to use so many medications for aggression and other behavioral difficulties. It cuts it down by about 50%. Also, their caregivers are inspired. They say, ‘you know what, they’re not gone. They’re not a husk. They’re just hidden. They’re opaque. But they’re there.’ And that’s a beautiful thing.”
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