Still Alice?

Still Alice is the popular film about an esteemed university professor who is struck with early onset Alzheimer’s.  She has everything: talented daughters, a loving husband who is also on the faculty of Columbia University, along with her brilliant career.  We watch as her memory gradually slips away.  She is no longer capable of serving as a university professor.  She sets up a series of tests for herself on her personal computer.  She leaves instructions to herself on the computer as to how to commit suicide should she fail these tests.  Her disease progresses until she is no longer able to find the bathroom in her home.   She does not commit suicide.  Instead she joins an Alzheimer’s Support Group and gives a presentation that in spite of her difficulties, she will continue to soldier on, that she is still Alice.  At the end of the film, her daughters are taking turns caring for her, as her husband has moved to a new job.  It is here that the movie ends.

But what if the movie had continued to follow the likely course of her disease?  It is likely that it is only a matter of time until she will no longer recognize her daughters, or that she will remember that she even had daughters.  Eventually, she might get to the point where she does not know who she is and holds no memories of the life of Alice.  Then the question becomes, is she still Alice?

One might ask that if someone who does everything right with respect to a healthy mind and brain can end up succumbing to Alzheimer’s, what’s the point in following advice from the healthy memory blog?  There is also the suggestion that Alice had a genetic predisposition to the disease.  It is important to understand, that although a genetic predisposition can increase the likelihood of succumbing to Alzheimer’s, the relationship is not deterministic.  That is, people can be found with the gene who do not succumb to Alzheimer’s.  So we return to the question as to why something like this could happen to someone as golden as Alice?  We must always remember that nothing in life is guaranteed.  We can do what we can to achieve success and to avoid problems, but there is always an element of chance that it involved.  So the best we can do is work to achieved favorable odds, while remembering that there are no guarantees.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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