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Alzheimer’s Disease, Article Review Example

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Article Review

Summary

The following critique dissects the research conducted by Herskovitz, 1995, on Alzheimer’s disease and her perceptions of the various aspects responsible for bringing it into limelight. She highlights how the socio economic scenario in the latter half of the twentieth century is responsible for the present hype and the dilemma in which a person finds himself on being diagnosed positive for the disease. On the basis of her research she suggests a fresher perspective on the disease which might enable future generations to have a more rational viewpoint and diffuse the panic associated with it.

Alzheimer’s disease which has been abbreviated as ‘AD,’ is defined as the ‘most common form of dementia among older people’ and described as a ‘brain disorder which seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities’ (www.nlm.nih.gov). Persons afflicted with the disease initially have difficulty in remembering things and with further aggravation tend to forget most of what is related to ‘self’ as well learnt personal and social skills. In the worst case scenario, they completely fail to recognize even close relatives and acquaintances.

The article entitled ‘Struggling over Subjectivity: Debates about the “Self” and Alzheimer’s disease’ by Herskovitz, 1995 is an intensely researched and thought provoking treatise on the chronology of our comprehension of senility in its new garb. It reveals the tremendous social, economic and political impact the new nomenclature has had on the sufferer as well as society in recent years. The author has comprehensively elucidated the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on subjectivity within the victim’s psyche and tried to elaborate the various ways in which ‘self’ is identified, comprehended and interpreted within the human framework of sanity. The author has followed the course of historical facts on how age related changes are understood, particularly that of personal awareness and how they have come to be interpreted in new light after the establishment and recognition of Alzheimer’s disease as an actual entity. She has presented this fact as a debatable issue as she feels that there exist no clear cut differences between the thin line dividing the changes which can be considered normal events of the aging process and actual dementia, which allow one to label an aged person as a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease can be interpreted as real if it occurs at an age at which normally the comprehensive abilities are considered to be impeccable but it may be misinterpreted if the general reduction of mental faculties which occurs at certain stages in the human life cycle is wrongly diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.

The author has highlighted the fact how after receiving invigorated interest and focus on this disorder by the medical and sociological fraternity after the 1970s has impacted the psychological well being of the increasing number of aging population in a negative manner. Due to tremendous media attention and the socio-political nuances attributable to the hype on this disease, older people are increasingly being subjected to higher levels of distress and fear of social ostracism. Not only the actual sufferers but the entire adult population now lives in a perpetual fear of getting afflicted with this disorder in their later years, which serves to develop a fear psychosis with the risk of mass hysteria at a relatively young age. The author drives home this point on the basis of the assertion by the medical fraternity about the impact of the negative morale mandate of the general masses about this disorder which blinds them to the true recognition of the normal changes associated with the aging process. This impacts the subjectivity within the diagnosed person which puts him or her at the mercy of a negative psyche which keeps instilling a perpetual fear of losing self control and sanity. The author believes that the situation has been over dramatized by overt concern of the social media with depiction of Alzheimer’s disease in works of poetry, fiction and television plays in which sometimes the sufferers are projected as objects of ridicule. This, she believes, furthers the case for depicting the state of the disease as a ‘horrifying’ or ‘monstrous’ condition.

The author has stressed upon the fact that the disease has been studied in the past few years solely through the perspective of the beholder or the researcher and not from within the psyche of the actual sufferer which she feels should be the ideal approach so that a clearer understanding of the underlying causes and psyche of the person can be accomplished. A sufferer is generally considered as a gone case and a mere image or a physical animal entity bereft of his or her truer comprehension of ‘self’, capable of performing nothing without external assistance.

The author feels that having a more rational perspective of our concepts about old people, particularly those diagnosed with AD is necessary in order to reestablish the lost aura of respectability associated with older persons which has disappeared under the influences of the materialism in western society which makes life a rat race and anything not falling in line with the current way of life is considered as abnormal. She expresses her opinion and offers proof in the form of the historical perceptions of life which according to her have seen the gradual reification of humanity and now AD in its present context. The author has later elaborated how the disease constructs in their present form have been reinforced by works of fiction. She has also cited excerpts from the writings of the sufferers of AD who have explained their dilemma in abstract terms, such as an ‘inanimate photograph’ which does not reveal the actual circumstances in which it was taken and can be comprehended only by speculation.

In the final section of the paper the author has comprehensively explained the different perspectives on what actually is recognized as ‘self’ and how it enables a person to recognize who he or she is. ‘Self’ can be interpreted through sociological instruments like language, inter-subjectivity, as an ontological construct or as an internal personal identity.

In her conclusion, the author has highlighted the need for a renewed perspective on Alzheimer’s disease and suggested that much needs to be still understood about how the aspects of subjectivity and constructs of the disorder should be framed for the present as well as the future generations. She believes that the present focus and stigma associated with the disorder is a result of the prevailing socio economic scenario which seeks to build a case for the establishment of various modalities to handle the disease out of academic and economic interests and ambitions.

References

Alzheimer’s Disease, online article accessed Feb. 18, 2010 at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alzheimersdisease.html

Herskovits, E 1995. Struggling over Subjectivity: Debates about the “Self” and Alzheimer’s Disease, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, New Series, Vol.9, No. 2, pp. 146-164

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